COVID-19 Coronavirus Updates: Tuesday / Wednesday, Dec. 28-29


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I am on record as an extreme skeptic of the state of Chinese statistics – https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/03/21/nobody-knows-anything-about-china/ – and it is very likely that the numbers around the Wuhan outbreak were seriously underreported. But the idea that China has been hiding covid all this time simply doesn’t add up.

For starters, testing is massive in China. So is social media – censored social media, but not completely controllable. People would be alarmed and talking about it if they were testing positive. We’re not seeing any of that…

the government is also not *behaving* in any way that matches this theory. instead, we’re seeing *massive* reactions to even very small numbers of covid cases, and huge dragnets.

Chinese cities and businesses are paying severe costs as a result of these lockdowns, particularly around travel and ports, at a time when the economy is already down on one knee. This is not the way the govt acts unless it thinks there’s a purpose.

there are two explanations for the very low number of omicron cases that require far less unnecessary supposition than ‘China really has rampant covid.’ the first is that China is extremely sealed off from the rest of the world!

other east and southeast Asian countries are only just seeing their first Omicron cases, it has not been a Big Thing there yet.

the second is that Omicron is, in fact, a serious challenge to the current quarantine system, the Chinese public is at least somewhat aware of this, and therefore the govt is underreporting omicron cases to avoid alarm/mistrust.

I’m not ruling out very small domestic pockets in remote areas that get covered up or reclassified as import cases. But the idea of secret covid death on the scale of the United States is simply not plausible.

The Chinese authorities are not kidding around:

The Omicron cluster identified in the northeastern province of Kalasin on Christmas eve has been linked to a couple who had travelled from Belgium and visited bars, concerts and markets.

The ensuing cluster had infected hundreds, with cases spreading to 11 other provinces, said senior health official Opas Karnkawinpong, citing how one of the bars linked to the cluster had been packed and did not have good ventilation…

Up to now, Thailand has reported 740 cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, including 251 in people who had come into contact with foreign arrivals, said Opas.

After coronavirus infections peaked in August above 20,000, daily case numbers have fallen to around 2,500 in the past week.

But the health ministry’s planning scenario indicated that by March daily infections could hit 30,000, with more than 160 deaths, without a faster rollout of measures like vaccinations and testing, as well as greater social distancing…

After detecting the first local Omicron infection last week, Thai authorities reinstated mandatory quarantine for foreign arrivals and suspended a “Test & Go” programme that allowed vaccinated travellers to avoid quarantine.

Earlier this year, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) released results of a large survey across 15 African countries in which 79% of respondents said they would get vaccinated against Covid-19, with even greater rates of acceptance among people living in villages. In August, another 12-country study found acceptance rates ranging from 67% to 89% in Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Uganda.

For comparison, the same 12-country study found that only 65% of Americans planned to get vaccinated, a number consistent with current vaccination coverage levels

…[O]utsiders have taken reports of declined vaccine shipments in some African countries — likely the result of numerous factors, including poorly coordinated donations and the difficulty of moving doses to rural areas — as evidence of widespread distrust across the continent, overlooking the heterogeneity of 54 countries, more one billion people, and distinct local health, cultural, and political contexts that strongly influence vaccine uptake.

Hesitancy is a red herring when it comes to immunization in Africa. Multiple challenges abound to reach World Health Organization’s goal of vaccinating 70% of the world’s population by mid-2022. In addition to poorly coordinated donations, these include receipt of expiring doses, receipt of large numbers of different types of vaccines with unique storage and transport requirements, over-centralized vaccine production, profiteering in the pandemic, and more…

Instead of exaggerating, distorting, and oversimplifying claims of Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy in African countries, commentators would better serve the urgent need for global Covid-19 control by amplifying the actual urgent asks from health experts to the rest of the world: donate stockpiled doses, support waivers of intellectual property, share manufacturing know-how, support regional vaccine production, and strengthen local health systems…

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