JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Let the Coronavirus disruption begin: planes held in London and prof warns “this is virus he fears most”

Partial post hoc reactive quarantine holds seven planes at London airport– seriously?

Madness. Eight planes have been held up for hours in London airports as they land with people with coughs and colds and try to check suspected cases. By the time people are symptomatic, its too late. Temperature checks may catch the most contagious people but now one person with a unrelated common cold can also cause a major and unnecessary disruption while other infective people can freely fly in and walk straight through.

Asymptomatic people can potentially infect 2 to 3 random people (or 10) who may then also infect 2 – 3 random people each before the Epidemiology SWAT Team realizes and starts testing and tracking. We play an impossible game of catch up in a race to isolate all possible contacts.

HOURS of misery in coronavirus lockdown at Heathrow:

DailyMail UK

Passengers endured hours of misery at Heathrow Airport this morning when up to eight planes were put on lockdown over coronavirus fears after passengers on board complained of symptoms of the deadly virus.

MailOnline understands a British Airways flight from Kuala Lumpur was held up on the tarmac for two hours when [...]

Coronavirus — early rates of severe cases in Hong kong and Singapore are over 10%

Global Markets were shaken by the sudden rise in numbers out of China yesterday. But the increase was not a surprise for anyone who has been watching social media and the measures being taken in China. That China is now allowing the WHO in may be an admission that they really do need help.  The explanation for the jump is that China changed the definitions.  They are also admitting that there may be many cases of people with low grade infections, but also unattributed deaths as well. For days the ratio of cases to deaths was suspiciously 2.1%, 2.1%, 2.1% …  Now perhaps it’s a tiny bit closer to the truth.

The tally outside China continues to rise: there now 587 cases, with 3 deaths (1 new one in Japan) and 24 people classified as “serious critical”.  These are the key figures to watch. We expected the number of cases that were severe to rise as the five to eight day lag unfolds from the first symptoms to the onset of breathing trouble. So at the moment 4% of cases outside China are headed for hospital intervention, perhaps ICU (does anyone know the definition of “Serious Critical”?). That will keep [...]

CoronaVirus more infectious, but we *hope*, less deadly. Without closed borders Covid-19 uncontainable

So Coronavirus is now CoVID-19.

We’ve been walking the cusp of containable versus pandemic for two weeks but the growth of infections outside China is just a bit too fast, a bit too random and the news suggests its easier to spread. At least the number of severe cases outside China is still only 2% of the total. But there’s a lag of a week or two, so that’s likely to rise. If it is even possible to stop, I suspect only the mass closure of borders will do.

World (ex China)      Cases: 517         Deaths: 2         Recovered: 54         Severe: 12

Click to enlarge

While Australia and the US and even India have the illusion of stability, the rise in Singapore, and on that ship is hard to ignore. Singapore is doing advanced tracking, yet still it spreads (see the chart, right). The difference between Singapore and Australia may be part luck — one superspreader versus one man who didn’t infect anyone on a whole plane.What matters then, is just how many people are superspreaders? The one ray from Singapore is that 15 people on that list are already listed as recovered. [...]

Corona Virus — darkness in China. The West waits while reports come that a mild illness may progress badly

One day ago, the statistics were looking good but there have been a few ominous shifts. Another 26 infections have been recorded, some in a French ski chalet, some in Singapore –at least three of which are hard to explain. These appear to be transmissions outside China, which is what we are hoping to avoid. It’s bad, but could have been a lot worse. Fortunately the Diamond Princess tally hasn’t risen much — standing at 64. Another plus — it’s almost two weeks since one passenger on a Tiger Air flight in Australia flew as he was coming down with symptoms yet the other 157 passengers appear to be OK. Promising.

Just 2% of cases so far are severe outside China (but that may grow)

The all important statistics outside of China are starting to accrue — So far there are 355 infections. Of those, 35 have recovered and only eight are marked as severe (see the table below). It’s good news that only 2% are severe, however it’s too soon to know — 90% are still unwell.

The illness appears to be less severe outside China, but a new study reports that this virus often looks benign [...]

CoronaVirus hope: First sign of a slow down

 Infected 34,887         Deaths 724        Recovered 2,076         John Hopkins CSSE

Assuming that these official statistics from China bear a faint connection to reality (in trend, if not number) this may be a sign that the draconian quarantine is starting to work. If real, it is only a slight slowing in the rate of growth, but it’s a good sign — one I have been looking for. It is a barely visible slowing of the rate of change in the cumulative tally of victims. The exponential curve is slowing. Of course, if this takes off in Africa this would be but a pause…

Graph by Worldometers.info

The virus which had been growing at 50% a day two weeks ago, slowed to 20% last week, and 11% today. One week was such a long time ago in exponential land. Last Friday night the tally was 9,700 infected, and 213 deaths. At that point, no nation had cut off flights or refused visas. UPDATED: Saturday.

..

Sadly the brave doctor who tried to warn the world has been taken by the virus. Ominously he was only 34 — presumably with no “underlying disease”. Instead [...]

The few places that escaped the Spanish Flu — lessons from Samoa

A fateful decision that led to many deaths

The Samoan Islands, 1896 | Wikimedia

Western Samoa and American Samoa are side by side islands in the Pacific. When the Spanish Flu arrived in 1918, one would instigate a quarantine while the other had a trading community that did not want to stop trade. American Samoa survived the Spanish Flu without a death. Western Samoa kept trading and lost a quarter of the population.

Influenza 1918: the Samoan experience

John Ryan McLane

In 1918 the Samoan archipelago was split between American Samoa (a United States territory) and Western Samoa (previously a German colony but under New Zealand governance from 1914). The 1918 influenza pandemic killed a quarter of Western Samoans, while leaving American Samoa unscathed.

The dangers of ship-borne disease were well known, and exclusion of many diseases, especially plague, had been implemented since the imposition of colonial governance nineteen years before.

On 30 October 1918 the Union Steamship Company’s Talune left Auckland for its run through Polynesia… The new, more lethal influenza variant had arrived in Auckland with the spring, and several crew members were ill.

Western Samoa was a German colony that had three [...]

CoronaVirus — huge ghost statistics mysteriously come and go. A hint of much worse?

Ooh. Are these the real figures? Is someone on the inside trying to leak out the truth?

There are claims tonight that a flickering set of figures have appeared that are much higher than the official tolls. These ghostly statistics have appeared three times then switched to the much lower official tally. But each time they grow — almost as if there are two sets of data, one for officials, and one for the public.

Ominously, the flickering death tally was 80 times higher than the official one. The infections were ten times higher. If it’s true the death rate may be far worse than the 2% bandied about.

If they are real, this changes everything. If they are fake, who or what would benefit? A glitch?

From Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge, and the Taiwan Times, h/t David E.

Tencent may have accidentally leaked real data on Wuhan virus deaths

Tencent briefly lists 154,023 infections and 24,589 deaths from Wuhan coronavirus

Taiwan Times

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As many experts question the veracity of China’s statistics for the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, Tencent over the weekend seems to have inadvertently released what is potentially the [...]

Corona Virus update — can we stop the pandemic?

The latest news coming out is mixed. The live map and latest count of 2019-nCoV shows 20,000 confirmed infections, 426 deaths, and most importantly, a spread to 28 countries. It’s slightly encouraging that there are no extra cases in Australia and good to hear 3 of the 12 have been sent home, declared “recovered”. However the incubation period since flights were closed is still only halfway to the average (of 5 – 6 days) so it’s too early to tell.

A South Korean has tested positive after visiting Thailand (not a good sign, but the statement didn’t “rule out China”). Japan has quarantined a whole cruise ship (like Italy did). One passenger came down with the virus in Hong Kong. The whole ship of 3700 is confined to rooms, awaiting test results. It’s reassuring that so many tests can be done.  (Yay, Japan). Meanwhile door handles can carry the virus. Soap and hand sanitizer could help a lot.

On the plus side, one team in Thailand say they have treated one patient successfully with anti-virals. It’s only one case, but a nice thought. How big are those stockpiles? The other plus, is that summer may slow it down. Best case [...]

Stinks: Slow WHO let CoronaVirus run. But Ethiopian WHO chief was part of China’s debt trap diplomacy

The WHO could have declared a state of emergency earlier. Instead it delayed the announcement, praised China’s transparency, and recommended countries allow planes potentially carrying a deadly virus continue to fly freely. The WHO waited until the 2019-nCoV virus had spread to 18 nations before declaring an emergency. Wasn’t it an emergency with the first foreign case or the first case of symptomless transmission?

Follow the chain, or rather the Belt and Road

The WHO Director General is Tedros Adhanom of Ethiopia. From 2012 – 2016 he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the one party government that rules Ethiopia. This is the same party that borrowed billions from China to build a railway line, then struggles to pay it back.  In Africa, Ethiopia is the second largest debtor nation to China — owing $13 billion.  As Foreign Minister Adhanom praised China for African loans, looks like he was the man to line them up. We also note that the one-party ruling party of Ethiopia is called the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front which was once a Marxist Lenninist far left group — labels it dropped after the Soviet Union collapsed. (Thanks Maurice for these tips).

Suddenly there might be [...]

Coronavirus — borders closing all around the world — no thanks to the WHO

 US and Australia close borders and everyone outside China starts tracking contacts…

The official deaths tally has risen to 259, but for the first time the “total recovered” at 287 now exceeds the total deaths. Evidently it’s quicker to die than to recover.

Australia remains the “leader” of the Western nations with 12 confirmed cases. Thankfully, it and the US have finally got serious and both announced today that they would stop people from China from flying straight in. Citizens can return with a two week isolation or quarantine period, but foreigners cannot. This is very good news (as far as virus control goes). Now all the same nations will be furiously, laboriously tracking and tracing the hundreds of potential contacts. In a few weeks we’ll know how contagious it is, and how deadly. And maybe, with much money and dedication we’ll even stop it.

Though in a few weeks a host of secondary countries may develop their own epidemics and virus-free countries will need to block them too.

What’s really remarkable here is how useless, to the point of negligence, the World Health Organisation is.

US and Australia close borders to Chinese arrivals

BBC News:  The US [...]

Corona virus and those exponential curves we don’t want

Been trying to do a Corona thread for three days, but every time it was half finished everything changed.

The WHO have finally declared a state of emergency, something that seemed inevitable as soon as we knew the virus could be transmitted by people without symptoms. Russia, Mongolia, and North Korea closed their borders Thursday. Hong Kong announced a temporary closure. Singapore has now closed its borders too. Mark Steyn meanwhile, marvels that healthy US citizens are being advised not to go to China, but it’s apparently fine for sick people to travel the other way. Extraordinarily a cruise ship with 6,000 passengers was “stuck” off Italy, waiting for clearance for two Chinese people who had symptoms like a flu. Fortunately they must have just had the flu. The ship was cleared. And so it is around the world with a mosaic pattern of super actions, versus business as usual.

British Airways has suspended all flights to and from China, as have many other airlines, but in a city by city way.  The virus is now present in every region of China. It’s not clear why all flights to and from China have not been stopped. On ABC news Australia’s [...]

Japan: The precautionary principle killed more people than the Fukushima nuclear disaster

The panicked closure of nuclear power in Japan pushed electricity prices up. The UN agrees that no people died from radiation in the Fukushima event, but the frenzied over-evacuation killed up to 2,000 people. After that, higher electricity prices led to at least 1280 extra deaths in the 21 largest cities. That translates into 4,500 deaths if the mortality rate was similar across the rest of the country.

Japan nuclear shutdown did ‘more harm than good’, study finds

World Nuclear News

Be Cautious with the Precautionary Principle: Evidence from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident, by Matthew Neidell, Shinsuke Uchida and Marcella Veronesi. A discussion paper by the Germany-based IZA Institute of Labor Economics.

“Our estimated increase in mortality from higher electricity prices significantly outweighs the mortality from the accident itself, suggesting the decision to cease nuclear production caused more harm than good.”

The authors calculated that these higher electricity prices resulted in at least an additional 1280 deaths during 2011-2014. This is higher than a previously documented estimate of 1232 deaths which occurred as a result of the evacuation after the accident, they say.

“Since our data [on mortality related to higher [...]

Older adults can still improve memory with high intensity exercise

Image profvideos

Just 4 sets of four-minute-long bursts of intense exercise was all it took for sedentary people aged 60 -88 to get an improvement in memory scores of up to 30%.

They worked out three times a week for 3 months, and the short sharp sets were better than 50 minutes of moderate exercise. Five hundred million years of evolution will do that — hone organisms to adapt to common stressors. And even if don’t need to outrun lions very often now, we still carry the genes that did.

This won’t surprise people who’ve been reading medical research papers.  High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) appears to be good for fat loss, anxiety, depression, improves blood vessel function, may slow Parkinsons, and colon cancer, is quicker, can restore glucose uptake in diabetic muscles in just two weeks.

Obviously the 30% memory boost mostly happens to people who start out sedentary. There may not be such spectacular gains for people who are already semi fit. But it only took 12 weeks.

Researchers at McMaster University who examine the impact of exercise on the brain have found that high-intensity workouts improve memory in older adults.

Researchers [...]

Air conditioning reduces indoor air pollution — give me cheap electrons

Just another way cheaper electricity saves lives.

Photo by Photo by noodle kimm on Unsplash

It turns out hotter rooms have higher indoor pollution. Levels of formaldehyde are lower in the morning and rise with the temperature. Air conditioning in hot summers, keeps the temperature down and will reduce the amount of formaldehyde and other pollutants from out-gassing from furniture and gypsum walls.  Obviously those who can’t afford to run the air conditioner and who live in warmer rooms in summer will be exposed to more pollution.

Though the worst situation was in 1970s homes with radiant heaters installed on gypsum sheets. In that case, people who can’t afford to heat may avoid some fumes.

Opening windows will clear out the indoor pollution, but houses are increasingly being designed to stop draughts to be more energy efficient.

The message: get rich or open windows when it’s nice outside, move those bar heaters off the walls, and buy peace lilies, bamboo palms, and dracaenas.

Researchers uncover indoor pollution hazards

By Tina Hilding, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture

PULLMAN, Wash – When most people think about air pollution, they think of summertime haze, traffic or smokestack exhaust, wintertime inversions, [...]

Climate disasters are less costly, less deadly, and corporate warnings are just $1T of hot air

Hitting the presses today, the vacuous news that lots of companies picked huge numbers out of the air using broken models to guess hyperbolic climate losses coming in the next five years, counter to all the trends for the last hundred years which show declining losses on a GDP basis. The world got warmer but the disasters got less nasty. Less bushfire, less cyclones, less tornadoes, less death per capita. The trends are all good. The only thing that’s up is the number of panic merchants.

World’s biggest firms foresee $1 trillion climate cost hit

LONDON (Reuters) – More than 200 of the world’s largest listed companies forecast that climate change could cost them a combined total of almost $1 trillion, with much of the pain due in the next five years, according to a report published on Tuesday.

So hundreds of companies have offered the climate world a free hit for PR by making a guess. They fall into two kinds of companies –The badgered and harried and the profiteers. See below for examples.  Firstly, here’s the only chart that matters.

Global Weather losses are down:

If CO2 causes climate events we need more of it. The [...]