The Corona Diaries – Day 162

It was warm and sunny here in Yorkshire. That’s lucky because we have had a bit of a disaster. Our hot water cylinder is corroded and leaking. It’s soaked the carpet and is not covered by insurance. We’re having it fitted today which has curtailed my walking. I’ll need to do that later!

It has provided me with time to work on editing my Roy Harper book. I’m now a quarter of the way through. Every gloomy cloud has a shower of rain that does some animal or plant some good!

Perhaps that will be the case with Covid? Out of this catastrophe, we might forge a better political system. It has undoubtedly shown these inept populist politicians up for what they are.

Here in the UK, we continue our jittery journey, juddering along, restarting the economy and schools, locking down areas, like Glasgow, and opening others, with mixed messages still rife and track and trace still not good enough.

The government arrogantly continues its course, choosing not to talk to people but simply issue orders. How much more smoothly would all this operate if only they started talking to people – teachers, businesses, councils. They might not be making so many dire decisions and U-turns. We might receive clearer instructions. Johnson is even refusing to meet with the bereaved families group. Talk about the invisible man. It seems that Dominic Cummings is absent so poor Johnson is hamstrung. He daren’t do anything without Cummings pulling the strings.

I watch all the arrangements taking place to prevent the spread of Covid and I raise my eyebrows. They are only as good as their weakest link. What is the point of bubbles, hand washing and distancing in classrooms if the kids mix after school or on the school bus? It’s the same in shops and businesses. You can have all the measures in place but if you share a loo, don’t have good ventilation or contact each other you are going to be spreading the disease. It seems to me that a lot of the stuffing going on with one-way systems, handwashing and distancing is for show – to comply with regulations. I have my doubts as to how effective any of it is.

Meanwhile, in the battle of incompetence, Bolsonaro still has his nose in front.  Brazil has another 42,659 cases and the USA is just behind with 41,535. Likewise, with the death rate – Brazil has 1215 new deaths compared to 1091 in the USA.  I don’t think this is going to get much better soon. The virus spreads easily and unless people start isolating or taking measures to slow the spread, we are going to have a lot more tragedy.

As for me, as a biologist I know the risk, I’m isolating, not going in shops and only meeting people outside. Life’s a risk but there is no reason to take unnecessary extra risks.


Stay Safe everyone.

22 thoughts on “The Corona Diaries – Day 162

  1. Opher, it was sunny in Surrey this morning too; but now, dull and boring weather. As to the hot water cylinder, these things happen.

    In your third to sixth paragraphs, you come about as close to my viewpoint as you have ever shown before; and that’s encouraging. I agree totally with you about government arrogance. They ought to be our servants, not our masters. But that’s the 16th-century “Westphalian” state for you; a political system long overdue for replacement. “The government can do no wrong!” “The government has died (or been dis-elected); long live the government!”

    And when you say, “I have my doubts as to how effective any of it is,” I agree. All the “measures” taken to contain the virus – including masks – are merely virtue signalling. And that doesn’t take into account that the sane strategy – now the virus’s lethality has come down a lot since its peak – is actually to encourage people who are not at serious risk to get it, so we can reach “herd immunity” as fast as possible!

    1. Surprisingly I am quite in agreement. I think we do need those who are not so at risk of serious health response to go back to normality. Though I do not see us ever achieving herd immunity. That would require 80% of the population having the antibodies – and, at least for some – immunity only lasts a matter of months.
      Without the safeguards of isolating, distancing, hand sanitising and masks we are likely to have a death-rate of 1% (with a population of 67 million that is 670,000) which is not acceptable. In the States you would be looking at 3 million plus. It is not possible for people to adequately shield and the vulnerable would be certain to succumb if all the other people around them were going down with it. The NHS would be overwhelmed.
      No I do not believe that the virus is any less lethal. I think that the lower death-rate is probably due to younger and less vulnerable people getting the disease and better treatment – but that needs confirming.
      The rate is rising nearly everywhere – we’ll see.
      My concern is that we are moving from an effective way of slowing the spread to tokenism and false security.

      1. I see GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi are to initiate testing their vaccine on people in the U.S with proposals for roll-out in early 2021. ‘Tis a possible game-changer if it works effectively.

        I don’t think there is an expedient way back to ‘normality’ – at least for the foreseeable future. The ‘new normal’ requires adherence to mask-wearing, hand-washing, social-distancing, and every individual acting responsibly for the greater good.

        A falling death rate – for reasons not yet conclusively established – is no reason whatsoever for complacency: the virus is still potentially lethal to large swathes of the population. Slowing the spread is the sane strategy as we head towards the winter months.


      2. It would be good if we did have a vaccine by early 2021. Trump is wanting it out before November and is willing to do away with all the safety checks and testing. Such a nice man. I’m sure the health of his people are his top priority.
        I think if we have a bit more info we might be able to have a little more normality.
        I’m not sure about the virus. I don’t think it has mutated into a less lethal strain (from the look of the US and Brazil). We’ll see. Some people are too keen to do away with the mechanisms that have reduced its spread. It does feel unreal though.

      3. More to the pity, I cannot imagine Trump’s administration being host subjects for the human trials!

        Having worked without breaking since lock-down in March – and chosen to be masked and gloved since 24th March – I guess I’ve grown pretty used to the ‘new normal’ and have accepted the need for it, and accepted as well the compromises – restrictions on movement, opportunity to use facilities, attend venues etc – that go with it. In many ways, the essential aspects of life pretty much continue as they did: people still shop, eat-out, sit in beer gardens, meet friends and loved-ones, but in the main, everything just takes place two meters apart.

        As a consequence of wearing masks, it is more noticeable how people now communicate and express themselves – or intimate their intentions – far more readily with their eyes. At least conversations are now mostly always eye-to-eye.

        At some point, I will have to read-up on cornoavirus C-19 mutations. I know little about it.

        The potential for further disruption to our lives over the coming weeks and months remains a distinct possibility. Whilst I can understand that people yearn for greater freedoms, I think it imperative that we remain alert to the C-19 and take every reasonable precaution to slow its transmission and mitigate its effects.

        I’ve heard it said that a mind stretched by new experiences can never go back to its original dimensions. Perhaps then, as a result of C-19 pandemic, there is no going back to what we once regarded as normal, that indeed it is time to embrace a new vision for our world?


      4. I guess it is up to us all, collectively, to create that vision of a better world – but I think so many will slip back into the bad old ways. We’ll see.

      5. Dozens of schools across the U.K are reporting C-19 outbreaks, including the school recently visited by BoJo, where made assurances schools are safe (1)

        And so the whole sorry saga stumbles on,

        Quite possibly the U.K Tory government lost control of the C-19 pandemic. (2)

        Ineffective Test and Trace, still no regular testing for care home staff and residents, and suggestion there are shortages of tests. Hancock has serious questions to answer, as too this shower of a Tory government.


        (1) –

        (2) –

      6. It’s a bit scary having clowns in charge of us. As you say – the saga stumbles on.
        It was obvious that opening schools was going to be a big challenge. Ironic that the school he did his silly speech from is one of the first to get the virus. Most probably one of his team.
        The Track and Trace – like everything else – is a shambles.
        These Tories are out of their depth!

      7. Once more into the breach my friend. Stay safe and well.

        There is worse still to come as Brexit looms nigh…the announcement by No.10 to clarify loose ends in the Withdrawral Agreement is seen by many as a direct challenge of international law.

        The U.K is now an outlier on the global stage. Doomed!

        Catch ya later!


      8. You know what Dewin – I bloody hope that the worst happens – mass job losses and shooting prices. The bastards who voted for it deserve it. We’ll see how much their patriotic jingoism and nationalistic nostalgia are worth them. We’ll also see if they enjoy being ruled by snobby Eton toffs better than Brussels.

      9. Opher, I’ve heard that in a model which takes account of the way people actually go about socializing (it’s hardly random – people do tend to separate into “clumps”) then something like 24% having had it would be enough for herd immunity, not two-thirds or 80%. The difficulty is in knowing how many people have had it symptom-free, or have had it (like me – I think) mildly, and early enough not to have had any inkling that it could have been COVID. The ONS (Office for National Statistics) is supposed to be working that out, with their “Pillar 4” random antibody tests. The latest report I could find from them was that they reckon there were about 2,200 actual new cases per day in the week 14th-20th August. That’s a little bit more than twice the number of new positive tests reported for that period (1,050). I’m not sure that’s very helpful, as what we really need to know is how many people got it and recovered from it (without ever being tested) in January to April/May, not in August.

        I’ve just been looking at the UK figures (from Our World in Data) up to the end of August. There were only 330 COVID deaths in the whole of August (though there may be some late reports to come). This compares with 828 in the whole of July, 2,956 in the whole of June, and a whopping peak of 1,224 in a single day (April 22nd). In contrast, the number of new cases reported in August (32,166) was higher than the number reported in July (18,760) or June (29,151). Meaning that the deaths per new case went down from 10.1% in June, via 4.4% in July, to just 1.0% (so far) in August. To put that in perspective, the cumulative deaths per case peaked at 15.7% in late April, and is now down to 12.6%. I can’t see how, unless something unexpected and very nasty crawls out of the woodwork, we can get anywhere near your figure of 670,000 deaths.

        I’ll e-mail you my “magic spreadsheet” so you can have a look at the data for yourself.

        As to overwhelming the NHS, what we would need in order to judge that is the hospitalization data for the UK. Which I’m sure exists somewhere, but I’ve never seen it in an easy-to-use form. Looking at the Dutch data which is much easier to find, yesterday they had 734 new positive tests, but only 6 people admitted to hospital with the thing. So, I suspect, overloading the NHS isn’t really going to be an issue.

      10. That’s a very optimistic view Neil. I hope you are right. There certainly are a lot less hospital cases. Is that the age profile though? It would be nice to think that the disease is becoming more benign.
        I’m not sure about that herd immunity logic. When I was studying epidemiology it was always 80% as the magic number.

  2. Opher: The abstract of the paper I was referred to on herd immunity is here:

    and the person who referred me to it (Nic Lewis, a fellow former Cambridge mathematician) wrote about it here:

    The 24% is his figure (actually, he says 7% to 24%).

    And there is certainly a possibility that the virus may be becoming less lethal. So I’m told, this is quite a common consequence of the fact that a virus that kills its host kills itself, so doesn’t do its survival chances much good.

    1. Hi Neil – that is interesting. The initial paper talks of ‘herd immunity to SARS-CoV-2 requires 60-70% of the population to be immune. By fitting epidemiological models that allow for heterogeneity to SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks across the globe, we show that variation in susceptibility or exposure to infection reduces these estimates.’
      60%-70% is more in line with my own understanding.
      Nic Lewis suggests that there is either a natural immunity in the population or some are far less susceptible – an interesting idea. I hope it’s true.

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