How to eliminate Covid, and other pandemic news


Academics at the University of Otago studied New Zealand’s experience with Covid and say that the virus can be eliminated, not just contained. 

The emergence of an apparently more infectious virus variant is just another reason to eliminate this infection,” they said

Actually only one of them said it, but let’s pretend, for the sake of simplicity, that they spoke in unison. They do stuff like that in New Zealand. 

What you need if you’re going to eliminate the virus, they said, is informed input from scientists, political commitment, sufficient public health infrastructure, public engagement and trust, and a safety net to support vulnerable populations. 

Those will be easier to cobble together in some countries than in others. That’s me speaking in unison and not mentioning any countries by name. To protect the guilty. 

Irrelevant photo: Crocuses. They’ll be coming up soon, and they’re not afraid of the corona virus.

One of the barriers to eliminating the virus is the belief that hard measures will hurt the economy more than half measures, causing greater hardship, which (as advocates of half-measures reminded us at the start of this mess) has its own health impacts.

“Our preliminary analysis suggests that the opposite is true,” the academics said. “Countries following an elimination strategy—notably China, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand—have suffered less economically than countries with suppression goals.”

The introduction of vaccines should make elimination easier.


Antibody therapy

Scientists are testing an antibody therapy that could prevent someone who’s been exposed to Covid from going on to develop it. It could, at least initially, contain outbreaks–in nursing homes, hospitals, or universities, say–or protect people in households where one person is known to be infected. They’re also investigating the possibility that it could protect people with compromised immune systems. 

If all goes well–please notice the if in that sentence–it could be available in March or April.

The Pfizer and Oxford vaccines don’t confer immunity for about a month after injection. With this, the immunity would be immediate.

It goes by the snappy name of AZD7442. 


Mass testing evaluated

Britain tried a mass testing program in Liverpool, using rapid-result Covid tests, and managed to miss over half the cases. 

So was it worth doing?

A study went through the data and came back with a definitive maybe. In this corner, wearing the electric pink tee shirt that says No, is the danger presented by false negatives. People who test negative but in reality carry the virus may be prone to riskier behavior than people who haven’t been given any reassurance. They think they present no threat, so they may spread the disease more.

And in this other corner, wearing the soothing green tee shirt that says Yes, is the benefit that comes with spotting Covid cases that would have been missed and taking those people out of circulation. Assuming, of course, that they actually do take themselves out of circulation, which most of them will. 

I think.

The Liverpool data hint that the test may spot people with the highest viral load–in other words, people who may be the most infectious–while missing those least likely to be infectious. But you might want to notice how many tentative words wiggled their way into that sentence. It hasn’t been established that a light viral load means you’re less infectious. 

People who are asymptomatic, by the way, can still have a high viral load, and an estimated 40% to 45% of cases are asymptomatic.

So is mass testing with rapid tests worth doing? It’s a matter of weighing the possible gain (spotting cases that would otherwise have been invisible) against the possible harm (giving false reassurance to people who are in fact carriers). And it depends on that unknown: how contagious people with low viral loads turn out to be.

Whatever it is you come here for–and that’s still a mystery to me–it’s not rock-solid certainty, is it?


The compassion report

With a show of compassion worthy of the current American and British governments, Colombia’s president announced that the country will refuse Covid vaccines to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan refugees. The only refugees who’ll have access to the vaccine are those with dual citizenship or official status. That’s less than half of them, and more are crossing the border daily.

The idea that no one will be safe until we all are is a hard one to get across. As will that business the academics from Otago mentioned–political commitment. 


A bookstore in Trieste asked for volunteers to call people trapped at home by the virus and spend twenty minutes at a time reading to them over the phone and just generally chatting. They figured they’d be doing well if they found a few people to help out the three staff members who were already doing making calls during their breaks and on their days off.

They got 150 responses. Some were from Italians living abroad. Some came from a theater company that had itself been trapped by the pandemic–not at home but offstage. Some were I have no idea who–people who don’t fall into such neat categories. The plan was to have the calling run during Christmas, but with the response it’s gotten it now has no end date.


An Amsterdam museum that sold a Banksy work for £1.5 million so that it wouldn’t have to lay off staff had a bit of compassion and goodwill returned to it. The anonymous buyer emailed a few months later and offered to lend it to the museum for at least a year.

35 thoughts on “How to eliminate Covid, and other pandemic news

  1. Meanwhile, in Oz, the no-jab-no-work chorus from employers has begun. Is it possible that ant-vaxxers and unions will join forces? Stand by for the next exciting episode of ‘Alternative Reality’ or ‘I’m a conspiracy theorist, get me out of here.’.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. That could certainly be interesting, especially if the same unions which have complained that their members weren’t being given enough protection at work now start saying that it’s not fair to deny their members work if they haven’t been vaccinated. It’s a tough one – I don’t like the idea of forcing anyone into anything, but I certainly don’t like the idea of colleagues and members of the public being put at risk by someone who’s refused to be vaccinated because they think the vaccine contains a microchip or something.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Some countries won’t let you in unless you’ve got a yellow fever vaccination certificate, so I can imagine that a lot’ll be doing the same with this, but there’s not much that can be done about it domestically. It’s not very practical to demand a copy of a vaccine certificate before letting people into, say, a theatre, a cinema, a sports stadium or even a shopping centre. Which is a problem …

        Liked by 1 person

        • And we’re still waiting to find out if the vaccine protects a person from passing on the virus. Lot’s of difficult and unanswered questions. I think, though, that in general I’d come down on the side of public health. I don’t take civil liberties lightly, but when I weigh a person’s right to walk free against the fact, say, that they have TB at a time before antibiotics, then I’d come down on the side of them losing the right to spread TB. (I’m trying to take my example away from the current situation to make it a bit less emotionally powerful.) New Zealand’s lockdown (to come back to the present day) was fierce but effective. We could probably learn from them.

          Liked by 1 person

    • In the crazy atmosphere we live with, I don’t see how it can not be. When people are running around convinced they’re going to be microchipped or whatever it is today–

      I suspect that a decisive government will be more effective than one that dithers.


  3. You showed admirable restraint by not naming which countries have a better chance of compliance…
    Over here Dear Leader refuses to fund the gummint or the military owing to his taking offense at the Army wanting to eliminate the names of Confederate generals from their bases. This from a man who not only couldn’t pick Braxton Bragg or John Bell Hood out of a lineup, but would probably be unable to differentiate between photos of U.S.Grant and R.E.Lee

    “…let nothing you dismay…”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nothing more definitive than a maybe which is what Pretty and I will know when we get the results from another Covid test today.
    This one was oral, which Pretty told me would be much less annoying than the nose one. She knew not of what she spoke.
    Regardless, we’ll wait with equal anxiety.
    If only we lived in New Zealand.
    2020 is almost over. Thank whoever you want to.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am from and live in New Zealand. And so freaking grateful during this time in history, that I do. We simply behaved ourselves and went into lockdown at the start of the virus. Fast as. We stayed at home. We didn’t all (although some greedy people did) clear the shelves in the supermarket in advance. But I did eat crap food during that time – $1 bread etc. We ate what we could get. We stayed inside except for the entitled stupid few who ranted and raved and “weren’t going to get covid” because they were special, whereas, obviously, the rest of us weren’t special. We didn’t have sex with the people in isolation and so spread covid throughout the city (bloody melbourne aussies!!), nor did we tantrum and riot over our right to (bear guns and) have our own way ( americans!!). We behaved, and were grown up – except for the afore mentioned “special” covidiots.. And don’t get me started on those stupid conspiracy theories…….. Economies can and do recover throughout history. In NZ it’s all about The People – it’s a Maori thing and I love it. .

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kia ora.

      New Zealand has been–and continues to be–impressive throughout this mess, and a reminder of how unnecessary the situation so many of us are in is. I agree. Economies can come back. The dead can’t. We’ve been so trained to focus on profit and loss above everything that we can forget there are other ways of thinking, other things of value. Thanks for writing about your experience. I appreciate the contribution.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I am certainly glad there is some good news peppered in here. I suppose the history books will balance the good and bad properly. We can’t see the correct picture because we are viewing it through the haze of panic, uncertainty… and well, being immersed in the situation as it happens. Pretty interesting about the Liverpool testing system. I would never have suspected such a thing. I didn’t realise false negatives were in such a high percentage! I get told very defensively from people that they have ‘tested negative’ so they can come near my son.. not that I see many people nor am I obsessive about it, but being in a high risk group.. well I don’t want to take those chances!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are several different quick tests in use, and the percentage of false negatives varies from one to the next. With at least some–possibly all–it depends heavily on who’s administering and reading the test, because an expert will have a better average than someone who’s just been thrown into it. But at least as far as I understand it, and I’m far from an expert, they’re all quite fallible.

      I think there may be one in development that’s reliable, but let’s wait till it’s in people’s hands before we celebrate.

      Your story certainly backs up the theory that quick tests can give people a false sense of safety. I guess the question to ask (if you have the nerve, and I don’t know that I would) is what kind of test and how long ago. And where have you been since you took it?

      What times these are. Bring on that vaccine!

      Liked by 1 person

    • It would–both the ones with severe allergies and the ones with compromised immune systems. There are so many promising approaches waiting in the wings, I can’t help thinking that there isn’t a scientist on the planet who’s had a full night’s sleep since this mess started.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think the US has won the compassion award hands-down on COVID. Terminating housing assistance and financial support for victims of the economic tolls of COVID due to spite for losing the election has to be an all-time low in the “contest”.

    Liked by 1 person

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