Covid: looking back

We're now a year into the pandemic and associated restrictions in most parts of the world. There has been an avalanche of data, predictions, worries and hopes over that time. I think it's worth looking back and taking stock of some of the debates that were important at various points and how they were settled. The first few that spring to mind (UK focussed, feel free to add those from elsewhere):

1) The Imperial College modelling. This predicted a potential half-million deaths if restrictions were not imposed. Some folk devoted a lot of energy to discrediting (I think there was an element of magical thinking here, that somehow if you could fault the model the prediction wouldn't be realised) it but we're past a quarter million and counting even with restrictions, and it's hard to believe that it won't go higher before we're done.

2) Lockdowns. During the first lockdown there was a fair amount of noise claiming it would never be lifted, and after claiming that cases had fallen naturally and the lockdown was unnecessary. 2-3 (depending on how you count) lockdowns in we can be fairly sure that both claims were false.
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Comments

  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    I basically agree with everything you wrote. However....
    Some folk devoted a lot of energy to discrediting (I think there was an element of magical thinking here, that somehow if you could fault the model the prediction wouldn't be realised) it

    I don't think it's magical thinking to believe that if the model is erroneous, then any predictions drawn from that model are questionable. Even though, in this particular case, the model turned out to be okay.

  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited April 28
    stetson wrote: »
    I basically agree with everything you wrote. However....
    Some folk devoted a lot of energy to discrediting (I think there was an element of magical thinking here, that somehow if you could fault the model the prediction wouldn't be realised) it

    I don't think it's magical thinking to believe that if the model is erroneous, then any predictions drawn from that model are questionable. Even though, in this particular case, the model turned out to be okay.

    It does however verge into magical thinking if your reasons for wanting to believe the model is erroneous are that you want it to be. It's common enough thinking, selection bias and all that, but it's still erroneous.

    It's a bit like the remarkable correlation between acceptance of the science on global warming and general location on the left-right political spectrum.
  • I think it is magical thinking (or something) to believe that if you don't like the results, then the model must be wrong. It is not magical thinking to look at the model to see how accurate it is (becasue if the model is wrong, the results will be wrong).

    As with another matter not-to-be-mentioned, it seems that the predictions at the start were fairly accurate. And that they were largely ignored, meaning that the worst end of their predictions has been closer to the truth.

    What I don't think was in early predictions - becasue it was (and still is) impossible to model and quantify - is the variants and the range of them. These have proved (and will continue to prove) devastating.

    One thing that I am really interested in, and I think was not predicted, is the impact on poorer countries. There was an assumption that they would be equally hit, but this seems not to have happened yet. Although India is now experiencing precisely what was predicted if the West sat on our collective behinds. Behind what I think was expected, but even more devastating.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    I agree about the magical thinking - I had some of it myself. “That couldn’t happen to us”.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    edited April 28
    Yeah, I agree, a lot of the people who questioned the model likely began their research looking to discredit it for reasons of ideology or self-interest, and did not update their opinions to match the evidence that emerged. Which is obviously not a good way to do research.

    But that's not quite what Arethosemyfeet was describing in the quote I posted.
  • Its interesting to see lockdown skepticism as magical thinking. It also does that weird reversal, X hasn't happened therefore lockdowns weren't necessary, when in fact, it's likely that lockdowns prevented X. The obvious example is half a million dead.

    I think at one point the scientists predicted 200 deaths a day, (UK), and there was a chorus of scorn from the right wing.

    I kept puzzling as to why many right wing pundits were skeptics, as with climate change, and I suppose for them capitalism has to be preserved, at all costs.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Its interesting to see lockdown skepticism as magical thinking. It also does that weird reversal, X hasn't happened therefore lockdowns weren't necessary, when in fact, it's likely that lockdowns prevented X. The obvious example is half a million dead.

    Y2K Bug Effect.

  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Models can be sophisticated but their predictive value depends on the quality of the data to which they are applied. Predictions tend to improve as the representativeness and volume of data increases. Rather like predicting the outcome of general elections, the model is perfect once the last result is declared. As they say: "Garbage in, Garbage out".
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host, Epiphanies Host
    .... (UK focussed, feel free to add those from elsewhere):
    ... but we're past a quarter million and counting even with restrictions, and it's hard to believe that it won't go higher before we're done.

    Just as a matter of fact, we aren't past a quarter of a million in the UK. Current official death total is 127K within 28 days of diagnosis, 151K with COVID-19 mentioned as a contributory cause on the death certificate. The excess deaths count is reckoned in the long term to be the best estimate and I believe the current figure is about 121K.

    The death total is still rising but very slowly. Which doesn't mean there will not be another big surge, but the success of the vaccination programme suggests this will only happen if a vaccine-resistant variant takes hold.

    Looking back does I think show plenty of examples of forecasting based on premises later proven to be inaccurate and government actions show some political taint. The general view is that we acted too late in imposing restrictions at the beginning, and relaxed restrictions too early at various times since. Those actions certainly contributed to the sickness, hospitalisation and death totals. In terms of deaths per million, the UK still ranks very high on the list, despite recent significant improvements.

    I think the UK government, in common with all governments, has been trying to balance effective and restrictive medical precautions against economic and social consequences. That balance has taken place against the novelty of the virus and an emerging understanding of how dangerous it might be. And the emergence in the Autumn of the highly infectious UK variant didn't help.

    How much of this was foreseeable? How much was foreseen but discounted in government decision making? That will require a formal enquiry, and I should think there will be one at some stage.

    Personally I'd give the UK government/UK scientist combo a C. The early March 2020 judgments and actions were I think complacent and led to a lot of avoidable initial deaths. The supplies of PPE etc. were also pretty shambolic early on. The later shambles over Christmas seems to have arisen because of political discounting of the effect of the UK variant until very late in the day. Boris got his arm twisted. But there have been some good decisions as well and the UK actions in getting the vaccination programme off the ground much earlier than the rest of Europe have been a good example of foresight and decent judgment on early actions.

    Could have been better, could have been worse.

  • Barnabas62 wrote: »
    .... (UK focussed, feel free to add those from elsewhere):
    ... but we're past a quarter million and counting even with restrictions, and it's hard to believe that it won't go higher before we're done.

    Just as a matter of fact, we aren't past a quarter of a million in the UK.

    Yes, thank you. A quarter of the half million figure was what I was thinking of.
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    I have a bit of sympathy for the government in February/March 2020. AIUI there wasn't 'one' model at the time that they were ignoring; there were lots of different models, with different assumptions. The models used by Sage under-estimated asymptomatic transmission and were also slow to react to the fact that the virus had become endemic in continental Europe.

    I have zero sympathy for the government's delay in the second and third lockdown. Mr Johnson had no grounds whatsoever for thinking his decisions were correct.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host, Epiphanies Host
    Barnabas62 wrote: »
    .... (UK focussed, feel free to add those from elsewhere):
    ... but we're past a quarter million and counting even with restrictions, and it's hard to believe that it won't go higher before we're done.

    Just as a matter of fact, we aren't past a quarter of a million in the UK.

    Yes, thank you. A quarter of the half million figure was what I was thinking of.

    Must be getting psychic! Funnily enough, I thought that was what you meant. I know the quality of your posting and thought “that ain’t typical”.

    Ricardus

    I think it was very unfortunate that one of the scientists (Chris Witty I think) made some early March remarks about herd immunity which suggested that a measure of natural community spread wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Things were already looking very grim in Italy around that time. I appreciate there was a wide range of early forecasts.

    I suppose the real issue was “what was cautious”. An immediate lockdown in early March 2020 would have been much better but the administrative logistics would have been a nightmare. “Let’s take a couple of weeks, see how things pan out, and make some contingency plans for the worst” probably looked sensible at the time. Truth is, it cost thousands of lives.

    An early lockdown would have met the Sir Humphrey category of “far sighted and courageous” I suppose. Not the kind of action politicians naturally buy into.
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    It also does that weird reversal, X hasn't happened therefore lockdowns weren't necessary, when in fact, it's likely that lockdowns prevented X. The obvious example is half a million dead.

    You're right that the point of such forecasting is to prompt action that will prevent the forecast consequences from occurring.

    But how do we distinguish an unsound prediction which never materialises because the model is wrong (and thus the action unnecessary) from a sound prediction that never materialises because the necessary action is effective ?

    Has there been adequate analysis to show that lockdown works ? Or are we just assuming that because it has some plausibility ? Or because the notion that the sacrifices that have been made were pointless is too painful ?
  • I think one problem was constantly describing / thinking of the event as unprecedented.

    It wasn’t.

    And where I think we were, as a society, complacent - is in thinking we’ve got advanced healthcare so it’ll have less impact. With a new diseases, you are effectively thrown back to a time pre advanced medicine. Lockdown and quarantine were crude measures that worked when you couldn’t treat an infectious disease, and basically, with a new disease that is the position you are in. I think some poorer countries did better to start with, because of previous experience with bad outbreaks (e.g. Ebola) and no such belief of “it couldn’t happen here”.
  • Fawkes CatFawkes Cat Shipmate
    Russ wrote: »

    Has there been adequate analysis to show that lockdown works ?

    I'm no statistician, and as already discussed in this thread we are all prone to our biases and using the evidence to support the answer we want, but I would suggest that the dropoff in cases after the first lockdown points in the direction of lockdown working. The increase in cases after the Christmas relaxation points in the direction that absence of lockdown leads to a rise in cases. The dropoff in cases after the January to March lockdown points towards lockdown working - although from an experimental point of view, the test tube then is polluted by having vaccine in it as well. The current Indian experience seems to point towards absence of lockdown leading to a rise in cases.


  • You need some nifty statistical work here, as a lockdown may be followed by a rise in cases, but "after doesn't mean because of". The skeptics just keep moving the goalposts, thus, "have you considered N. Dakota"? Sweden was their great mantra, with a lighter lockdown, but they had much worse figures than Norway. It would be a brave politician who said, no lockdown and no masks.
  • You mean, a dumb one. (Thinking of one locally)
  • Most places in the world never had lockdowns, they had restrictions.

    The restrictions were usually not instituted when they should have been, they have almost always been always late and after-the-fact, i.e., when test positivity and spread indicates that an increase in infections was coming in 2-3 weeks (noted exceptions, New Zealand, Taiwan, a few others). The politicians in most places have shown themselves to be egregiously uninformed about simple mathematics, statistics, and ill-prepared to appreciate that science is more important than ideology and politics.

    Science blew it (pun intended) when aerosol transmission and masks were not appreciated as necessary until late.

    "Intellectual property" continues to be a problem with vaccines.

    I'd like to see public health officers with the ability to impose science-based preventative public health measures, over-ruling politicians. Like courts have the ability to do.
  • One thing that has bugged me is the ... unawareness?... of the general public of the fact that science is an ongoing endeavor, nobody has all the answers in the back of the book immediately a pandemic hits, and that it is normal for best practices to change as scientists learn more about the current plague, whatever it is. I have heard various people throwing hissy fits because "science" should have told us x, y and z (all based on data not available till early 2021) back in March 2020! Sheesh, people. There aren't any time machines. Otherwise I might be tempted to undo a few conceptions.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host, Epiphanies Host
    edited April 28
    Russ

    What works is prevention of infectious spread. Social distancing, face masks, ventilation, good hygiene.

    Lockdowns contribute to that by minimising the possibility of social contact for a period. They stop the spread of the disease. They are a temporary measure and they are as successful as the extent to which people adhere to them.

    I think Dr Fauci said that if 100% of the population observed strictly the standard preventive measures the virus would die out because it would have nobody new to infect. Lockdowns are only necessary because people don’t do that or wilfully refuse to do that.

    The other factor is that the more people catch the virus the greater the possibility that it mutates into something more infectious and more lethal. Keeping the number of new cases down and reducing is the best way to bring this under control and avoid that risk.

    It’s not rocket science, any of this.
  • RuthRuth Admin Emeritus
    One thing that has bugged me is the ... unawareness?... of the general public of the fact that science is an ongoing endeavor ...

    For all the talk we've had about STEM education in this country, there's been notably little interest in what "S" really is. Science may as well be magic for many of us.
    I think one problem was constantly describing / thinking of the event as unprecedented.

    It wasn’t.

    And this is where knowledge of history comes in. George W. Bush read a book about the 1918 influenza epidemic, realized the US needed a plan for the next pandemic, and made it happen. I never had a very high opinion of Bush, but that he read the book, drew the lesson from it, and acted accordingly is pretty striking. Trump of course gutted the agencies responsible for pandemic planning, pulled US scientists tasked with looking for the next pandemic out of China and other places around the world, and, once covid started to spread, tossed out the pandemic playbook left by the Obama administration.

    But it wasn't just our bone-headed administration in 2020 -- it was so many people thinking "it can't happen here" or "it won't be that bad." A few months ago Indian officials were so sure they'd beaten it, and now they obviously haven't.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    edited April 28
    @Ruth said -
    But it wasn't just our bone-headed administration in 2020 -- it was so many people thinking "it can't happen here" or "it won't be that bad." A few months ago Indian officials were so sure they'd beaten it, and now they obviously haven't.

    Indeed. But, as I said earlier, that kind of thinking isn’t unusual, and it’s understandable. I felt some of it myself.

    Australia, New Zealand etc - being close to the first SARS outbreak knew, from experience, that it certainly could.

    Hopefully we all have learned now and are learning India’s lesson. 😢🕯
  • HuiaHuia Shipmate
    Part of the reason NZ acted as quickly as it did was that the graph for cases here was beginning to resemble that of Italy and we had only about 150 ventilaters in the country. We also had a PM was frankly aghast at the possibility of having large numbers of people die on her watch and who listened to scientists (and some world class scientists). We failed to move quickly on masking though.

    I also think population density played a huge part. Auckland, New Zealand's largest city has had 2 extra lockdowns because of cases in the community where the virus leaked from isolation hotels and the borders. It also has large areas of overcrowding, poverty and a large Maori and Pasifika population who seem to be more susceptible to respiratory diseases.

    The track and trace system of contacts wasn't very good in the beginning, but it has improved. All businesses and public transport have a QR code to be scanned on entry or a paper record to be filled in on entry. There hasn't been a case in the community for months in Christchurch, but I keep scanning because I want to be in the habit if the situation changes.

    We have has 26 deaths - I would hate it to reach 27.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    One of the things we did in Australia which didn't happen so much in other countries was closing international and internal borders and even erecting a border between Melbourne, the site of our largest outbreak and the rest of Victoria. Also, right now we lock down as soon as a case is detected in the community. Its usually for a few days only and the point is to allow our contact tracers to identify those who are primary and secondary contacts before those people get fully out and about while infectious.

    Someone above said we were closer to the SARS outbreak and therefore more prepared. That's not what happened. What happened is that all sides of politics listened to the epidemiologists paid to give us advice and acted upon it. Closing our borders and instituting quarantine measures straight away was critical. So our success is because of the quick resolve of our politicians. Our lunatic fringe was sidelined from the beginning and one liberal MP got the boot from his party for promoting Trump-inspired bulldust.

    Staying locked down until there was no cases detected in the community in Melbourne sealed the deal. We were at 700 cases a day. There was no luck involved. Instead, there was our Premier's iron political will to withstand lots of criticism from the media, the business community and the troglodyte right over those three months. There was the resolve of our police to enforce the Chief Health Officer's orders. There was a large degree of compliance with the orders and police crackdowns on protests. Also, the withdrawal of restrictions was slow. The final one, mandatory masks in certain locations has now dwindled to masks on public transport, at the doctor's and other medical facilities, and at aged care and disability services.

    We are starting to build facilities designed for quarantine and move away from the hotels we have been using until now. That says to me that the Govt is getting advice suggesting that Covid 19 is here to stay, and not just as a mild cold for the vaccinated.
  • HuiaHuia Shipmate
    Remember Simon Toad, there will also be those unwilling to be vaccinated and some, who for medical reasons will be unable to be vaccinated.

    Yes, the hotels weren't really designed for quarantine and I think that's why we have had a couple of cases who caught the virus there, but on the whole they have served well as a stop gap measure.

    What kind of area are the new facilities being built in?

    My Dad ended up in a "Fever Hospital" as a child but it turned out he had been stung by a jellyfish. His brothers had been collecting them on the beach, then didn't clean their trolley before they gave him a ride in it. The doctor thought it was scarlet fever.
  • NenyaNenya Shipmate
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    That says to me that the Govt is getting advice suggesting that Covid 19 is here to stay, and not just as a mild cold for the vaccinated.
    There are things in the news to that effect here in the UK as well: continued measures to control the spread of infection, possibly distancing and mask-wearing, and on the radio yesterday words from - I think - a scientist to the effect that they hoped there wouldn't be another "wave" but it was sensible to plan for another "increase."
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    One comment to note - and this is not at all to denigrate the success of Australia and NZ, or to justify the UK response - is that Australia and NZ both get less than half the number of daily international arrivals as the UK*, and also were not at the start of the pandemic particularly close to a country where infection had got out of control (at least compared to the UK's closeness to Italy)**. So they both had a bit more time to react before the number of cases became uncontrollable.

    Both countries used their allotted time well, whereas the UK squandered what little time we had, but it isn't quite as simple as 'Australia did this so we should be able to too.'

    * I have statistics if anyone is bothered.
    ** For some reason lots of Brits seem to think Australia and New Zealand are right next to China. Which they are, in the same way the UK is right next to Nigeria.
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    Barnabas62 wrote: »
    Russ

    What works is prevention of infectious spread... ..Lockdowns contribute to that by minimising the possibility of social contact for a period.

    Yes, there's a plausible mechanism (which is perhaps a larger part of the process of science than some would admit).

    I was asking whether the case for lockdown has gone beyond plausible mechanism to statistically proven.

    And the answer seems to be no, but plausible mechanism is enough for many people.
    They stop the spread of the disease. They are a temporary measure and they are as successful as the extent to which people adhere to them.

    I think Dr Fauci said that if 100% of the population observed strictly the standard preventive measures the virus would die out because it would have nobody new to infect.

    The idea of a short, "hard" or total lockdown which would cause the virus to die out, is attractive. That's not what we've had in Ireland or the UK. The strategy has been continuous partial lockdown - with varying degrees of restriction over the last 14 months - aimed at slowing the spread of a virus considered impossible to eradicate.

    Those promoting restrictions - whether govt guidelines or advice to politicians - try to get buy-in by portraying these measures as both necessary and sufficient.

    The number of politicians found breaching the guidelines they set suggests that as a class they don't actually believe these actions to be necessary.
    Barnabas62 wrote: »
    The excess deaths count is reckoned in the long term to be the best estimate and I believe the current figure is about 121K.
    The excess deaths count includes the deaths caused by anti-Covid measures. The cancer patients whose treatment was delayed, the increase in suicides during lockdown, etc.
    I think the UK government, in common with all governments, has been trying to balance effective and restrictive medical precautions against economic and social consequences.

    Yes, that was the challenge. If we're genuinely, as the thread title suggests, in post-crisis mode, then perhaps it can be admitted that in some cases we got the balance wrong. Rather than just parrotting the official narrative.
  • Do you have a reputable source for the increase in suicides? Because this seems to suggest otherwise? https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n834
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    A while back Alienfromzog presented statistics showing that in every country surveyed there was a drop in infections almost exactly two weeks later followed by a drop in deaths.

    Russ either missed that, or when he says nobody has presented evidence that lockdowns are effective he's lying.
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    Russ wrote: »
    Barnabas62 wrote: »
    Russ

    What works is prevention of infectious spread... ..Lockdowns contribute to that by minimising the possibility of social contact for a period.

    Yes, there's a plausible mechanism (which is perhaps a larger part of the process of science than some would admit).

    I was asking whether the case for lockdown has gone beyond plausible mechanism to statistically proven.

    And the answer seems to be no, but plausible mechanism is enough for many people.

    What other mechanism would you propose that explains why the infection rate dropped during the first lockdown?
    The idea of a short, "hard" or total lockdown which would cause the virus to die out, is attractive. That's not what we've had in Ireland or the UK. The strategy has been continuous partial lockdown - with varying degrees of restriction over the last 14 months - aimed at slowing the spread of a virus considered impossible to eradicate.

    I think the example of Australia and New Zealand - and, closer to home, the Isle of Man for most of last year* - show that lockdown does indeed eliminate community cases if it's imposed early enough.

    My guess is that there is a point of no return, where case numbers are so high that the best you can do is restrict them to manageable levels. I think the UK passed this point at a very early stage - I think by the time public opinion realised the seriousness of the situation, it was already too late.

    The question is then: Is bringing cases down to manageable levels a worthwhile goal? What do you think would happen if we didn't?
  • Fawkes CatFawkes Cat Shipmate
    edited April 30
    Russ wrote: »

    I was asking whether the case for lockdown has gone beyond plausible mechanism to statistically proven.

    And the answer seems to be no,

    Could you talk us through how you have come to this conclusion please?

    I suspect (although I may be doing you an injustice) that your analysis is that you asked on this forum whether there was statistical proof, and no-one has presented any. So from this you conclude that there is no statistical proof.

    If that is your line of argument, it's worth having a look at the membership of this forum. Their common factor is an interest in Christianity. And while there's nothing to exclude statisticians from having an interest in Christianity, there's nothing to require it either. My impression (which of course may be wrong) is that our membership does not include many statisticians: in particular we do not have many (any?) medical statisticians on board.

    In other words, you've asked an uninformed sample of the population whether there is statistical proof, and this uninformed sample has failed to come up with an informed opinion. Which doesn't strike me as overly surprising. As far as medical statistics go, we're just a bunch of ignoramuses ranting in the saloon bar of the local pub.

    We can probably give you a fairly definitive view of our specialist subjects (have we got the right altar front?), but statistics as applied to Covid isn't one of them. So the fact that we haven't given an answer does not mean that the answer should, in fact, be 'no'.

  • Dafyd wrote: »
    A while back Alienfromzog presented statistics showing that in every country surveyed there was a drop in infections almost exactly two weeks later followed by a drop in deaths.

    Russ either missed that, or when he says nobody has presented evidence that lockdowns are effective he's lying.

    I also notice that Russ rarely posts evidence for any of his claims.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host, Epiphanies Host
    Plausible is a weasel word in this context, Russ.

    What is incontestable is the way that the virus spreads. All preventive actions are designed to reduce the risk of that spread. The extent to which they work can only be assessed by measuring reductions in the infection, hospitality and mortality rates. The evidence from many countries is impressive.

    And if you want to see what happens when guards are relaxed or increasingly ignored, look for example at what has happened in India since February. A new case rate of 10k per day in mid February is now approaching 400k a day. And the previously low recorded death rate is now skyrocketing.

    If you are sceptical, Russ, what is the evidence for your scepticism?
  • Statistical proof of what is an effectively an observation study is not a thing. https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/11/22/scientific-proof-is-a-myth/
  • jay_emmjay_emm Shipmate
    edited April 30
    Experience has shown that the 2 Oxford profs that the radio liked, have been consistently wrong as well as triggering 'that doesn't sound very likely' on the half informed at the time.
    I think it needs to be found out to what extent, where, and for what reasons optimistic views got confused with verifiable fact (ironically clearly without sufficient evidence).
    On the other side Ferguson (and lockdown) also needs some analysis with hindsight. But as other people have said above it doesn't seem unfounded at first sight (you possibly have various trolley problems/Pris dilemma, coming into play depending on the details, but imo it seems not too far off).
  • Statistical proof of what is an effectively an observation study is not a thing. https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/11/22/scientific-proof-is-a-myth/

    I think you're misinterpreting that article a bit.

    The author's point is that science doesn't "prove" things in the same sense that mathematics proves things. A mathematical proof is basically a logical statement - if A, B, and C are true, then X and Y are also true.

    What science calls "proof" is different. And applying statistical techniques to observational studies is absolutely a thing: it's what makes astronomy a science, for example. Astronomers don't get to "do experiments" where they can control the variables: they get to look at the universe that we've got.

    In the case of lockdowns, one can find a strong correlation between lockdowns and a subsequent reduction in transmission. As mentioned, our shipmate @alienfromzog provided such an analysis some time ago. Correlation is not causation, so this statistical analysis can't distinguish between lockdowns being the cause of the reduction in transmission, or both lockdowns and transmission reduction being caused by the same thing, or ...

    But lockdowns provide a plausible mechanism for a reduction in transmission, and the data shows a strong correlation between lockdowns and less Covid, and we don't have any other good reasons for the reduction in Covid. That's what science calls "proof", and it remains true until we come up with a better model.

    Where the data gets more interesting is when you compare different places with different approaches to lockdown. The US press likes to compare California and Florida, claiming that the similar Covid rates in the two states means that lockdowns "don't work". This claim is simplistic nonsense - it assumes that there are no other differences between California and Florida. When you're looking at changes in the same state, the analysis is much easier, because nothing changes from week to week about how people live, or how old they are, or what healthcare they have, so if you make a change (lockdown) and see a response with the expected time correlation, it's likely to be a causal relationship.

    Comparing Florida and California is a much more challenging thing to do. We can have a detailed discussion about why the headline claims are complete nonsense if anyone wants, but this post is already long enough. So for here, I'll just say that there are several difficulties with the claims made.
  • Yes, it ignores confounding variables. Tabloids often do this, thus, from "people who eat chocolate live longer", they get "eating cocolate makes you live longer", quite a different sense. The lockdown skeptics do this a lot. As they say, what about Sweden?
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    A determining factor in the spread of this disease is the type of leadership one has at the top. Trump failed miserably. The Obama administration had given him action plans on how to counter an epidemic. The government had stockpiled necessary equipment over the years. He threw all that away. His continued denials and misinformation hurt how we responded to the crisis. It caused great division at state and local levels as well--divisions that continue even to this day.

    On the other hand, Biden had experience with the SARS epidemic and has been able to accomplish a lot in 100 days in spite of the damage Trump did.

    However, we are not the only nation that suffered from poor leadership. Boris was late in getting on board. Look what is happening with Brazil.

    Countries that had strong leadership have faired much better than countries whose leaders were deniers.

    Let's hope we have learned from this experience.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    edited May 1
    Ricardus wrote: »
    One comment to note - and this is not at all to denigrate the success of Australia and NZ, or to justify the UK response - is that Australia and NZ both get less than half the number of daily international arrivals as the UK*, and also were not at the start of the pandemic particularly close to a country where infection had got out of control (at least compared to the UK's closeness to Italy)**. So they both had a bit more time to react before the number of cases became uncontrollable.

    Both countries used their allotted time well, whereas the UK squandered what little time we had, but it isn't quite as simple as 'Australia did this so we should be able to too.'

    * I have statistics if anyone is bothered.
    ** For some reason lots of Brits seem to think Australia and New Zealand are right next to China. Which they are, in the same way the UK is right next to Nigeria.

    We closed our borders, internal and external. Our international border remains closed. Britain, IIRC, allowed people to holiday in Spain over the summer. I have heard that Britain is going to allow travel to Europe again shortly.

    We don't let people travel internationally without good cause. Everyone who returns from overseas must quarantine in a hotel room for 14 days, where they are guarded. This is because early on, people did not obey quarantine orders at their home, and then tried to abscond from hotels. The number of people returning per day is capped so that we can properly police their quarantine period.

    We have paused all returns from India until 15 May. There is no guarantee that returns will be allowed after that date. After two cricketers in the IPL got around that by transiting through Doha, the Govt has announced this morning that it will criminalise returning from a declared country. The maximum penalty is 5 years jail.

    Here are the stats on Melbourne's outbreak. We peaked at 687 cases in 24 hours on 4 August 2020. It took till the end of October to record 0 cases in 24 hours, and then in mid-November we had a significant run of 0 cases.

    Our lockdown in Melbourne was fierce. You were not allowed to leave your home other than for exercise or to buy essentials. All shops were closed except for certain types, like supermarkets, petrol stations and fortunately for my family, newsagents. A range of benefits were introduced to compensate people for loss of income. You weren't allowed to evict people. There was a raft of measures.

    Planes go everywhere where there are airports. The idea that our geographical isolation played any more than a very minor role in our success is utterly wrong. Britain is ideally placed to cut itself off from everywhere else. But it didn't do it.

    The idea that there is a certain level beyond which Covid 19 can't be eliminated strikes me as dangerous crap. It clearly can. We did it. If other countries haven't, its because they haven't gone hard enough for long enough.

    Other countries need to do what we did. Vaccines are not going to end this thing. We already have a variant in Sth Africa which can beat the Astra Zeneca vaccine. We have four or five virus variant breeding grounds around the world, including the United States.

    If you reckon that economic damage is the problem that prevents you doing what is necessary to beat this thing, the Federal Govt here just recorded the first monthly surplus for the year because of a windfall in tax revenue, and an unexpected drop in expenditure due to the rubber band effect we are experiencing here. Tax revenue goes up when economic activity goes up. If you lock down, close your borders and police the recalcitrant properly, you WILL eliminate the virus in your country, and then everyone will get out there and spend all that money they couldn't spend during the lockdown.

    Stop pretending that nothing can be done. Stop making excuses for not doing the necessary. Lock down and stay down until community transmission is eliminated. We in the developed world should have already done this, so that we could now be pouring our resources into helping the poor.
  • RuthRuth Admin Emeritus
    How many Australians have been stranded abroad because of these policies?
  • HuiaHuia Shipmate
    Gramps49 wrote: »

    Countries that had strong leadership have faired much better than countries whose leaders were deniers.

    I think it helped in NZ that there had been a General Election in November 2019 where there was a landslide for the Labour Party headed by Jacinda Ardern. The main opposition to Government policy on COVID came, not from the other major party (National), who were in disarray having had 3 leaders in a year, but from Advance NZ, a recently formed party that garnered 1% support in the same election.

    So I think NZ's response was possibly (initially at least) more unified than some other countries, which helped the success of the strategies put in place. It also helped that the scientists keeping the public informed were great communicators one, (Siouxsie Wiles) collaborated with a cartoonist to explain various aspects that would have been over the heads of many of us otherwise. She has since won New Zealander of the year for her work.

    I also wonder if NZ being a small country of only 5 million helped. There are jokes made here frequently about the limited degrees of separation between people - one cell phone company calls itself 2 degrees in a reflection of this.
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    Planes go everywhere where there are airports.

    Sure. But I'm going to guess the number of expensive long-haul Italy-Australia flights is an order of magnitude less than the number of cheap short-haul Italy-UK flights. So if each day without lockdown brings x infections from Italy to Australia, it will bring 10x infections from Italy to the UK. So a day's delay in the UK is equivalent to 10 days' delay in Australia.

    Which is all I'm really arguing. As I say, you used your time well, and we didn't.
    The idea that there is a certain level beyond which Covid 19 can't be eliminated strikes me as dangerous crap. It clearly can. We did it.
    No, you did it because you didn't let it get to that level in the first place, because you were sensible.

    No country that has let Covid get really high has managed to get it down to zero. And that's lots of countries whose governments have many different ideological stripes and levels of competence.

    I may be wrong about this, which is why I say 'I guess'. I'm just going off observation.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Ruth wrote: »
    How many Australians have been stranded abroad because of these policies?

    I see the Guardian has reported that stranded Australians attempting to fly back from India are to face strict penalties if caught.

    International flights, though, are less easy to monitor. I heard a report earlier that Air India and Vastara flights are still arriving in KwaZulu-Natal and many of those arriving are then boarding flights to Europe, via the Middle East. All flights from South Africa to Britain and Europe and the US have been suspended. But Qatar Airways has increased its flight frequency in April and travellers from South Africa can connect to final destinations in Europe and Asia via Qatar, where travel bans aren’t in place. Turkish Airlines continues to offer flights to South Africa, using Istanbul Airport as a primary transit point. And of course, at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport, Ethiopian Airlines has kept its South African routes uninterrupted since borders were fully reopened in November 2020. Together with Qatar Airways, Ethiopian Airlines offers the most frequent roster of flights to and from South Africa with flights to Europe three times a week.

    In addition, Air France is available for travellers from South Africa. France is now one of the only countries in Europe which (officially) allows entry to travellers from South Africa who successfully apply for a “certificate of exceptional international travel”. Compelling reasons include professional work that cannot be deferred, but does not extend to any form of leisure. Those flights are packed and booked solid for months ahead.
  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    Ruth wrote: »
    How many Australians have been stranded abroad because of these policies?

    Currently 35 to 40,000

    And your point is?

  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    In more positive news unrelated to the porousness of the developing world's borders, South Africa's Johnson & Johnson vaccines have arrived and the Sisonke vaccination programme is now supposed to commence from mid-May 2021. No new Covid variants have been detected in recent months and the post-Easter surge has not proved overwhelming so far.
  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    Good to know
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    edited May 1
    Ruth wrote: »
    How many Australians have been stranded abroad because of these policies?

    More than should have been. I think there are about 9,000 in India right now, 600 odd vulnerable. These Australians should have been home by now, over a year on, and our Federal Govt is to blame for not setting up separate quarantine facilities with a larger capacity. There is quite a bit of upset over that.

    There are also questions about whether the policy to stop repatriation until the 15th May is racist, because we have never done this for Australians in Europe or the USA. My view is that asking the question is right, but answering it now is not possible. We need more information, and that will come out. A former Race Discrimination Commissioner is one raising the issue of racism, so I expect there will be an investigation by the Human Rights Commission, and the truth will out.

    Ricardus said:
    No country that has let Covid get really high has managed to get it down to zero. And that's lots of countries whose governments have many different ideological stripes and levels of competence.

    I may be wrong about this, which is why I say 'I guess'. I'm just going off observation.

    Right. And now you have daily cases at a reasonable level, you have the opportunity to eliminate it. But you have to act now. If you do, you have the capacity to get down to zero and start recovering. But if you let people go on holiday to places where the virus is not as controlled, you will be back to where you were in a couple of months. The vaccine is not going to save you. The virus is too out of control in too many places. You have to eliminate the thing now, while you can, control your borders and play whack a mole with outbreaks that result from the gradual repatriation of your citizens.

    The UK is an island country. You can effectively isolate yourselves. You are not utterly fucked like other places. Your vaccine rollout has given you the breathing space you need. Lock the fuck down again, and shut your borders. Tell the public that elimination is the goal.
  • But the Westminster Government is pushing to open up and allow foreign travel as all the elderly Tory voters are champing at the bit to go the Spain or Turkey, on their cruises again. It doesn't matter that anyone under 40 has not been offered a vaccine yet. They don't vote Tory and it's winning votes that counts.
  • Do you have a reputable source for the increase in suicides? Because this seems to suggest otherwise? https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n834

    We have provincial statistics to show an decrease of about 40%. But an increase of overdoses by 35%. Such that naloxone kits are given out on request along with free training on use. Eating disorders are also up 50%. Domestic violence up about 40%.

    On the other side, during winter cross country skis were not available. Right now you cannot buy a bicycle for love or money. Lumber for home renos and construction is double the cost, if you can get it. Camping spots at provincial parks were over booked immediately when booking opened (lakes are still half covered with ice).
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