This is the third of a series of articles on covid-19 promised on May 25 in “Ongoing disaster from Shambolic Clots”:
I will link back to an update of this complete list each time a new article is published.
The danger from Shambolic Clots in NSW is greater today than ever before.
After seeding the virus throughout Greater Sydney and regional NSW the government has announced just enough steps for an intensified lockdown of the whole State to delay action against it. Contact tracing has already broken down completely with the source of 345 mystery cases “under investigation” out of 466 total. That means most of the infected people who infected today’s cases are still not in isolation and still spreading infection. Recovery from that requires a far more rigorous lockdown with full curfews and rostered hours for collecting supplies and exercise. Each day’s delay is likely to add another week to the necessary lockdown
But the strategy remains unchanged. Instead of aggressively suppressing the virus to eliminate community transmission like every other State in Australia, the NSW Government still intends to just keep vaccinating while the virus keeps infecting. Then they can announce that they have reached 70% “fully vaccinated” in a couple of months and then go to “phase B” and then “phase C” where we no longer bother about infections and only look at the number of deaths.
This is intended to force the rest of Australia into the same policy of opening up like the UK instead of stamping out each outbreak until it is safe to open up because the whole world has been vaccinated, like New Zealand.
If they are very lucky they may “succeed” by avoiding the hospitals being overwhelmed. Vaccination DOES dramatically reduce the death rate at present and so far the UK has been able to avoid mass deaths despite complete collapse of contact tracing and mass infection as is starting now in NSW.
Can they be stopped? Yes. New Zealand has reaffirmed its policy of elimination despite the fact that “allies have thrown in the towell”. Most of the public support the New Zealand policy rather than the media death cult’s campaign.
Public pressure could win in the long run. But we don’t have a long run.
Infections are already growing exponentially and will not be slowed much by today’s steps. If the numbers infected double every week it only takes 10 weeks to multiply by one thousand. Delta can double much faster than that.
There is no way for public pressure to force an unwilling State Government to change policy quickly. It takes many months to organize. A large majority in the UK against the Government policy were unable to prevent it going ahead.
The only people who can stop the NSW Government quickly are the Chief Health Officers (CHOs) of the other jurisdictions. They form the Australian Health Protection Principals Committee (AHPPC) responsible for fighting the pandemic.
They are busy trying to suppress outbreaks in their own States and Territories spread from NSW. But they have not yet done anything to actually support NSW. Instead State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers have merely criticized at two successive weekly meetings of “National Cabinet” and the national “Chief Medical Officer” (who does not actually run any public health system) still describes vaccines as a “circuit breaker” when there is simply no way vaccinations can stop infections faster than Delta can spread them.
It is not clear whether the CHOs on the AHPPC know that it is actually possible for them to intervene in NSW. Most people simply assume it is politically impossible because the Federal Government has no authority over State public health systems and no desire to intervene against a coalition government. If they have time to think about it at all, it is likely that many CHOs have the same assumption. All they can do is close the borders as tightly as they can.
But it is possible for them to intervene. The Federal Health Minister can simply issue a decree under the Biosecurity Act. Formal advice to do so from the AHPPC would be hard to ignore. If the government did ignore them it would have even less chance of surviving the next elections than it does now. That Act provides the same dictatorial powers that CHOs have exercised in their own jurisdictions (including detentions of tens of thousands of people) to overide all other Australian law during a Biosecurity emergency. See my “draft 0” in the second article of this series:
We need lawyers to draft the necessary “legislative instrument” (and perhaps some memos about the penalties for wilful neglect of duties by public officers) and medical doctors and scientists to ensure the CHOs promptly take action to insist on its prompt implementation (and second the necessary officers to lead the NSW public health response).
Everybody knows a doctor and pretty well any doctor is only 2 degrees of separation from a CHO. We can talk to doctors and persuade them to study the relevant documents carefully enough to pick up a phone and persuade a colleague closer to the CHO to do the same. Then it is just one more phone call to reach the local CHO and get them to take the time.
Something similar should be possible to find lawyers who know lawyers that could do the drafting.
A good starting point for reading by doctors and lawyers is the New Zealand Government’s position. Here it is:
Click on “Expand all” and read the speech by the main author of the NZ Government report recommending that they continue to “stamp out” each outbreak as it occurs. Then also download pdfs of the report.
Here’s an excerpt:
Many people argued that elimination was impossible. Well, they were wrong. New Zealand did eliminate COVID-19, and so did several other countries — including China.
There’s no doubt that our elimination strategy has served us well. I often compare us with Scotland, which also has just over 5 million people. New Zealand has had a total of 26 deaths during the pandemic. Scotland has had over 10,000 deaths, and more Scots have suffered chronic illness — the so-called ‘long Covid’. We dodged a bullet — and our social and community life has flourished, in comparison with countries where repeated lockdowns and restrictions on gatherings have made the past 16 months a time of frustration and grief.
But what about the future? Can we maintain elimination, as we re-open our borders (as we must do)? High levels of vaccination should make it easier to stamp out clusters of COVID-19, but new variants like Delta will make it more difficult. If we have to give up on elimination, and allow the virus to become endemic, many New Zealanders will end up in hospital and a sizeable number will die — though a lot fewer than if we had let the virus spread last year.
Our group wrestled with the question. We concluded that, at this stage of the pandemic, the elimination strategy is not only viable, but also the best option. It allows us to enjoy a lifestyle that is relatively unaffected by the ravages of COVID-19, and to protect our health service and our economy.
The UK, after a disastrous year, has had a great vaccination roll-out: 94% of English adults now have antibodies arising from vaccination or past infection, or both. Yet last week they still had 627 deaths from COVID — the equivalent of about 48 deaths a week in our population. And most British people are avoiding contacts with others: social contacts are still down on last summer, and are barely a quarter of pre-pandemic levels. Many people work at home, and about 90% are still wearing a mask when outside the house.
Look at this crowded room. None us of us is wearing a mask, and we are not fearful of contagion. This would be unthinkable in most countries. I hope not to spend the rest of my life shielding from others, especially in winter, and looking at faces covered by masks.
Next, to understand the full horror of the term “Pandemic of the Unvaccinated” it is necessary to understand that most of the world is unvaccinated and that a report to the 94th meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies of the UK Government (SAGE) described:
Scenario One: A variant that causes severe disease in a greater proportion of the population than has occurred to date. For example, with similar morbidity/mortality to other zoonotic coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV (~10% case fatality) or MERS-CoV (~35% case fatality).
SAGE considered this report and officially confirmed that it has “high confidence” and is “almost certain” of “higher rates of transmission creating more opportunities for new variants to emerge” and that more severe disease is a “realistic possibility”. (See paragraph 37 and 39 of Minutes below).
The Minutes omit the reference to up to 35% case fatality but that is what was described as a “realistic possibility”.
These documents can be found at:
This includes the SAGE 94 minutes: Coronavirus (COVID-19) response, 22 July 2021
Published 6 August 2021:
and an updated version of the report on long term evolution discussed in those minutes:
That report includes a succinct summary of latest virology, immunology and phylodynamics from p6 to end at p15.
A summary of the report was published in the business executives magazine, “Forbes” on August 4:
The UK Government opened up the UK to unlimited infection on July 19 (“Freedom Day”) in the full knowledge that this is likely to unleash a “Pandemic of the Unvaccinated” both in the UK and worldwide.
They expect that pretty well everybody will get infected since Herd Immunity is unfeasible and that there is a “realistic possibility” that up to 35% will die. That’s more than 2 billion people!
The UK Government’s crime has been denounced by more than a thousand medical doctors and scientists in a politely worded statement:
The UK Government must reconsider its current strategy and take urgent steps to protect the public, including children. We believe the government is embarking on a dangerous and unethical experiment, and we call on it to pause plans to abandon mitigations on July 19, 2021.
Although politely worded the accusation of “unethical experiment” on humans happens to be considered a “crime against humanity” over which courts in many countries exercise “universal jurisdiction” regardless of where and by whom such crimes are committed.
We can leave aside consideration of what motivated the UK Government and what motivates the NSW Government until they are put on trial either by their own courts for “reckless endangerment” and “misconduct in public office” or by the courts of other countries affected by their crimes against humanity.
The point right now is to stop them by doing whatever we can to prevent mass infections while vaccinating the world (and developing a future “sterlizing vaccine” that actually eradicates the virus).
Below is the authoritative minutes from SAGE.
But there is more that doctors and lawers should be studying closely and that science journalists should be explaining to a wider public. Here is a starting point:
Assessing the risk of vaccine-driven virulence evolution in SARS-CoV-2
Ian F. Miller, Jessica E. Metcalf
It explains clearly the precise mechanism by which “vaccine-driven” virulence evolution has a realistic possibility of killing 2 billion unvaccinated people while being “unlikely” to threaten immunized populations.
How might COVID-19 vaccines alter selection for increased SARS-CoV-2 virulence, or lethality? Framing current evidence surrounding SARS-CoV-2 biology and COVID-19 vaccines in the context of evolutionary theory indicates that prospects for virulence evolution remain uncertain. However, differential effects of vaccinal immunity on transmission and disease severity between respiratory compartments could select for increased virulence. To bound expectations for this outcome, we analyze an evo-epidemiological model. Synthesizing model predictions with vaccine efficacy data, we conclude that while vaccine driven virulence evolution remains a theoretical risk, it is unlikely to threaten prospects for herd immunity in immunized populations. Given that this event would nevertheless impact unvaccinated populations, virulence should be monitored to facilitate swift mitigation efforts.
Vaccines can provide personal and population level protection against infectious disease, but these benefits can exert strong selective pressures on pathogens. Virulence, or lethality, is one pathogen trait that can evolve in response to vaccination. We investigated whether COVID-19 vaccines could select for increased SARS-CoV-2 virulence by reviewing current evidence about vaccine efficacy and SARS-CoV-2 biology in the context of evolutionary theory, and subsequently analyzing a mathematical model. Our findings indicate that while vaccine-driven virulence evolution in SARS-CoV-2 is a theoretical risk, the consequences of this event would be limited for vaccinated populations. However, virulence evolution should be monitored, as the ramifications of a more virulent strain spreading into an under-vaccinated population would be more severe.
Rather more than “monitoring” is required, we have to vaccinate the world.
Doctors and scientists should be able to find the relevant technical literature from seeing what recent papers have referenced the earlier papers listed in that preprint.
Lawyers should be able to prepare the necessary criminal indictments – but first we need the legislative instrument that helps NSW rejoin the rest of Australia in following the New Zealand path of maintaining elimination instead of the UK path of spreading infection.
Below is the relevant part of SAGE 94 minutes: Coronavirus (COVID-19) response, 22 July 2021
Published 6 August 2021
Long-term viral evolution
- It is almost certain that the emergence of new variants of SARS-CoV-2 is related to the amount of circulating virus, with higher rates of circulation and transmission creating more opportunities for new variants to emerge (high confidence).
- There are a number of possible scenarios which could lead to the emergence of a variant which is more transmissible, causes more severe disease, or has a degree of immune escape.
- A variant which causes more severe disease could emerge through recombination, where it is produced in an individual infected with two separate variants or acquire other genetic material from other viruses or the host (realistic possibility). Current vaccines are highly likely to continue to provide protection against serious disease for such new variants. However, since no vaccine is completely effective, there would likely still be an increase in morbidity and mortality from such a variant.
- An immune escape variant could emerge in several ways. This includes through antigenic shift, where natural recombination events change the spike glycoprotein of the virus (realistic possibility). It could also emerge through animals becoming infected, the virus mutating within that population and then later this new variant infecting humans (realistic possibility). A new variant could also emerge through antigenic drift, where antigenic variation eventually leads to current vaccine failure (almost certain). These could occur over different timeframes. It is unknown how levels of immunity change the risk of the establishment of such a variant.
- Reducing transmission, increasing vaccination levels, monitoring new variants and preparing to update vaccinations would mitigate the risks of such new variants.
- A new variant could emerge that evades current antiviral strategies. Reducing the likelihood of such a variant emerging requires careful use of antivirals. This includes taking particular care in the treatment of immunocompromised people, or others infected for a long period, in whom viral evolution is more likely to happen. In particular, those working with infected immunocompromised individuals should take extra precautions to prevent onwards transmission.
- Although unlikely in the short term, in the long term it is a realistic possibility that variants will arise that are more transmissible but with reduced virulence. This reduced virulence, along with high population immunity, could eventually lead to the virus causing a much less severe disease.
- As antiviral drugs become available it will be very important to use them in a way that does not induce viral escape from their effects, for example using them in combinations.
Impact of international vaccination
- The biggest threat to the UK’s health security and response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is the emergence (and establishment within the UK) of variants that either have increased transmissibility, increased severity, escape prior immunity or a combination of these characteristics (high confidence). At this point in the epidemic, with a high degree of population immunity, an immune escape variant would be of particular concern (high confidence).
- Substantial global circulation of SARS-CoV-2 will lead to the evolution of new variants and continued risk of importation to the UK (medium confidence). Reducing prevalence globally will therefore reduce the risk to the UK. Multilateral coordination will be important in achieving this.
- Increased international vaccination (for example by sharing of doses or supporting increased manufacture) has the potential to reduce the appearance and establishment of variants internationally, as well as the risk of their importation to the UK (medium confidence). There are also strong ethical reasons for supporting international vaccination efforts. Targeting international vaccination efforts (for example to countries where there are higher numbers of immunocompromised people, for example due to HIV infection) may be particularly beneficial.
- The choice of vaccine is likely to be important and may change over time. Although using single doses would allow more people to be reached with limited supply, it may also result in more people having partial immunity which may increase the risk of an immune escape variant developing or spreading.
- Border measures may also reduce the risk to the UK, though these will delay rather than prevent the importation of variants. Reducing global prevalence may lessen the need for border measures. Strengthening global surveillance of variants (as well as continued surveillance in the UK) will be important in understanding the risk. SAGE strongly supports the need for effective surveillance systems in the UK (UKHSA) and the presence of a global surveillance system as envisioned in the G7 communique. In addition to sequencing, studies on biology including transmission fitness and antigenicity will be required to understand which variants may become dominant.