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Evolution of the virus
Notes: Willow Springs
Thoughts, observations
  Thought 2020/04/13
  Observation, 2020/04/27
  Observation, 2020/05/04
Significant points
The pandemic in Australia
  The COVIDSafe App
Related pages

COVID-19, some notes and thoughts

As I start on this page (2020/03/27) my wife and I are some of the last guests being allowed to stay at the Willow Springs homestead resort in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia for the foreseeable future (and who would be brave enough to claim to be able to foresee far into the future in this very uncertain time). The operators have told me they will not be receiving more guests after the end of the month.

My greatest concern is with climate change; COVID-19 is just a temporary blip in the developing much greater disaster. So I make comments in this page on matters relating to climate change impact. I have also written a page questioning why climate change, as a far greater disaster than the pandemic, is getting far less action.

Perhaps the best thing that could possibly come out of the pandemic is that it might remind those who need reminding that we humans are not above all animals, plants and other organisms, we are a part of the biosphere. Even the lowest of all organisms, if a virus can even be called an organism, can lay us low. The lesson we could learn is that we must stop just looking after ourselves, we must play our part and look after our environment and all those who share it with us.

In addition to many other new regulations on things like 'social distancing' and 'self-imposed isolation' the Australian government, and the various state governments, are quite quickly tightening up the rules and advice on who can go where and under what circumstances at the time of writing.

We live in interesting times.

This page was started 2020/03/27, last edited 2020/05/09
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©
 
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The Pandemic

Some of the main unanswerable questions about the pandemic at this time (late March 2020):
  • How many of the world's people will contract the disease? There are 7.8 billion people in the world, it seems credible that a billion could catch the disease.
  • How many people will die? As of 2020/04/02 the world-wide death rate has been about 5%. 5% of a billion is 50 million.
  • There is a huge difference in death rates (2.9% in Germany, 13% in Italy); why should this be so? (On 2020/04/17 Worldometers reported that deaths made up 21% of all closed cases.)
  • How long will the pandemic last?
  • What will bring the pandemic to an end?
    • A drug? In late March 2020 at least two seem to be showing some promise.
    • A vaccine? In late March we were being told that a vaccine will be a year or 18 months away but by 2020/04/18 it was being said that a vaccine may be available by September (5 months).
    • Heard immunity? That will not be achieved until 60-90% have either contracted the disease or been vaccinated.
    • Or some combination of those? I suspect that this is the most likely.
  • What will be the extent of the immunity developed by encountering the virus (or from vaccination)? How long lasting will immunity be? Will the virus prove to be similar to flu with mutated versions coming back each year in the future?
  • How much social and economic disruption will it cause?
  • What will the long-term effects on society be? Will society be significantly different following the pandemic to what it was before?

Comment 2020/04/10

It seems that in my country, Australia, the social distancing, limitations on mobility, laws against many people coming together, mandatory quarantining of those who have contracted the virus, or have been exposed to the virus, etcetera, have got the disease under control (6,152 official cases, 93 new cases on 2020/04/09; that is 242 cases per million, 3.6 new cases per million).

On the other hand, the pandemic is rife in the USA (425,769 official cases, 33,331 new cases on 2020/04/09; that is 1,286 cases per million, 101 new cases per million). Third world countries do not seem to have the ability to either control the spread of the disease or to test anywhere near all the people who might have contracted it; we just don't know what is happening there.


Speculation on long-term impacts
 

Disparity in wealth

At the present something like one percent of the world's riches people own as much as the poorest fifty percent of the world's people.

Many people are going to have great financial hardship due to the social and economic disruption from the pandemic. An extra Aus$5000 would be a significant boost to these people's welfare. It happens that Australia's richest person, Gina Rinehart, could give $5000 to each of a million people and still be Australia's richest person.

National and state governments are greatly increasing their debt in order to support businesses that have had to close and individuals who are out of work. This will result in the rich getting richer (government borrowings come predominantly from the wealthy and must be paid back to the wealthy with interest) and increasing the already huge disparity of wealth in the world.

The wealth disparity has been increasing for many years. Natural justice dictates that it must be ended at some point. What will end it? Serious international action? Revolution of some sort? Will the pandemic and its after effects cause sufficient disruption, dissatisfaction and anger to force this change?


Impact on climate changing emissions?
Governments have been far to slow in taking action on minimising climate change. The curtailing of flying will substantially reduce greenhouse emissions from that source (at the time of writing Australian airlines had cut 90% or more of their scheduled flights and presumably other airlines were similarly impacted). The many slowdowns in industry and business arising from the pandemic will (surely?) also reduce emissions. On the other hand social distancing is causing fewer people to use public transport, possibly resulting in more use of private cars (although this may not happen because of greatly increased unemployment and more people working from home).

Will there be significant short-medium term changes in emissions due to the pandemic? Will long-term changes to society following the pandemic change the rate of greenhouse gas emissions?

I have written on a comparison to our reaction to climate change compared to Covid-19; climate change is a far greater disaster than the pandemic, but is getting far less action.

Evolution of the virus

It is disadvantageous to any pathogen to kill its host; a virus particle in the dead host will probably rot with the dead host and a dead host is much less likely to pass on the genetic material of the virus than is a live host. So while there is evolutionary pressure for increased contagiousness, there is an evolutionary pressure for a pathogen to become less virulent over time. Evolution favours organisms that are able to pass on their genes to the next generation.

So, should COVID-19 come back in future years we should expect that it will gradually (or perhaps quickly) kill smaller percentages of its victims.

 
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Notes: 2020/03/27, Willow Springs, Flinders Ranges, South Australia

My wife and I had planned a three-week holiday in northern NSW, but decided against going so far from home a few weeks back. That idea became unfeasible in any case when about a week ago the government of our state, South Australia, announced that people were not going to be permitted to cross the state borders without urgent cause.

 

Speculation

In Australia we have recently had drought, unprecedented fires, floods and now pandemic.

Our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison speaks freely of his Pentacostal Christian religion. I would have to wonder if he believes that we are reaching the 'End of Days' with the 'select', including him, to be saved in the soon-coming Rapture?

Of course the drought, fires and floods are almost certainly linked to climate change which is exacerbated by the refusal to act on reducing emissions by governments such as the Morrison government.

The government is telling people to 'not go anywhere without need' as a way of slowing the spread of the virus, but it was quite plain that 'going anywhere' was not causing the spread of the virus, the problem was human-to-human contact. We reasoned that we could have a few days in the rather remote and sparsely populated Flinders Ranges with very little human-to-human contact.

At the present we only know of two of our friends who have contracted the virus. (More accurately, two of our friends in Wales who are recovering from a nasty infection that seems likely to be COVID-19; it hasn't been confirmed medically.) We have not heard of anybody in Crystal Brook or Clare, where we have properties, who have caught the virus.

Isolation
There is no mobile phone or Internet availability in Willow Springs but there is satellite TV and weak radio reception, so we can keep up with Australian and world developments fairly well, but are not hearing much from family, friends or home.

Wildlife
In the parts of the Flinders that we have so far passed through we have seen quite a few euros and emus; more than one would expect considering the state of the vegetation, which varies from dying from lack of water to being in good condition, depending on location. (Some of the healthiest vegetation being on the major creeks.)

Bush flies
My wife and I have noticed more bush flies than usual this summer, and they are particularly plentiful in this part of the Flinders Ranges. The question came up of whether they, or any other insect, might be capable of transmitting COVID-19 from one person to another – I don't know the answer, and have not heard anything of the possibility.

Our recent past

My wife and I took part in a wind farm sleep study at Flinders University in Adelaide from 2020/03/10 to 18. We were test subjects in this study and it involved close person-to-person contact between some the the technologists and ourselves. I have been informed that the in-house part of the study is being postponed for the foreseeable future. (The phrase 'foreseeable future' seems to be one that I'll be using quite a bit in this page.)

Adelaide is a city of over a million people. It seems unlikely that we will be going back there for quite a long while.

Our immediate family

While my wife and I are retired, the welfare of our children (who are working) and grandchildren (who have been going to school) have less control over their contact with other people.

Our son and his wife and daughter live in Adelaide. I believe that, in their work, they need not have much close contact with other people.

Our daughter, her husband and their two daughters live in Mandurah, Western Australia. I think our son-in-law does not need to have much contact with other people in his work, but our daughter, being a veterinarian will have to. Of course this is a concern to all of us.



Bungala solar farm, completed
Bungala
Photo taken by my Mavic Mini drone, 2020/03/26. Click on image to view full size, 'back' to return
We visited Bungala Solar Farm on our way north. It is, I believe, the biggest solar farm in Australia (275 MW?); we had previously seen it when it was under construction.
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Flinders Ranges observations and comments

There were far less tourists to be seen than usual at this time of year; I've written more specifically on this in places below.

The region was terribly impacted by the drought and while this particular drought cannot be blamed on climate change climatologists have been telling us for years that drought is made more likely by climate change. On this visit to the Flinders Ranges we saw many gum trees that would probably have been a hundred or more years old killed by the drought.

This visit to the Flinders Ranges prompted me to write a page devoted to photos, observations, notes and memories on our many visits.

Willow Springs, 2020/03/27, morning
Yesterday morning my wife and I took a long walk down the track that follows the creek to Reedy Spring. The area around Willow Springs station is suffering more from the drought than parts of the ranges further west because they missed most of the substantial rains (elsewhere) of the beginning of February.

Wilpena, 2020/03/27, late afternoon
 
Wilpena campground
Campground
At this time of year the campground would normally be crowded
In the late afternoon we drove to Wilpena hoping to refuel our car, do some messaging, see what's happening on Facebook, and have a look around.

We expected the place to be quiet due to the pandemic, but were surprised by how quiet we found it. The store, and fuel bowsers, had closed at four rather than staying open until six, so we didn't refuel (we later saw someones who said that they would re-open on the following day).

The camping ground would normally be bustling with hundreds of campers at this time of year (I don't think 'hundreds' is an exaggeration), we saw about a half dozen caravans, some of which were probably kangaroo shooters (there was a big cool room).

We were told by one of the Wilpena staff that 'they would be shutting down' on 28th, although whether that applied to the camping ground, the cabin accommodation, the store or all was not clear. I would think that the store at least would have to remain open at some times for the permanent residents of the district.

Bunyeroo and Wilpena Pound
Bunyeroo
Above the Razorback Viewpoint, overlooking Bunyeroo Valley. A 'stitch' of two photos taken by my Mavic Mini drone, 2020/03/28.

Bunyeroo and Brachina gorges, 2020/03/28
After another trip into Wilpena to refuel we took the southern turnoff toward Bunyeroo Gorge.

We left Wilpena about 0930 and didn't see another car until about 1200. That was the only car that we saw on the Bunyeroo road. We saw another four in the afternoon, all in or very near Brachina Gorge; we didn't see a single vehicle in the 20 or so kilometres of sealed road from the Brachina turnoff to the Willow Springs turnoff which we reached about 1330. So apart from the cars we saw in Wilpena, we saw a total of five in the four hours on what are normally well used roads; that is very unusual for Autumn in the Flinders Ranges.

We only saw one small area of surface water in Brachina Gorge and none in Bunyeroo. There is usually quite a bit of water in both gorges. We noticed one other area of open water to the east of Brachina Gorge. This, of course, was nothing to do with the pandemic but most likely a lot to do with climate change.

The state of the vegetation varied from fair to highly stressed, although in general better than in the Willow Springs area.

Between Bunyeroo and Brachina gorges
Bunyeroo-Brachina
The road between Bunyeroo and Brachina gorges, some of 'The Flatirons' on the left, Wilpena Pound in the distance again
A 'stitch' of two photos. There is a small artefact of the stitching process in the bottom left corner
Photos taken by my Mavic Mini drone, 2020/03/28.


To Blinman, 2020/03/29
We drove the 100 kilometre round trip to Blinman in the afternoon. The hotel, cafe and mine-tour business were all closed. Nothing was open. We saw a few moving cars while we were in Blinman but we did not pass a single vehicle while driving to Blinman or returning.

The vegetation varied from terribly impacted by drought to in fair condition.

 
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Thoughts, observations (well after leaving the Flinders Ranges)

Thought, 2020/04/13; certainly not a prediction, I'm not that stupid

At the present time Australia seems to have the spread of the virus under control, even in the USA, which has enormously more cases, the number of new cases is showing signs of having peaked.

It is too early to tell what is going to happen in third world nations that don't have the resources of first world nations; will the disease spread until the majority of the people have contracted it and developed immunity?

If this happens, while these nations might lose 5% or even more of their people to the virus, the remainder will be able to go on without having to socially isolate. They will be able to reopen their factories and businesses and get back to work while the world's first world nations will have to stay in 'shut-down', at least until a vaccine is widely available.

This could give third world nations a great economic advantage over first world nations. What a turn around!

Second thought; 2020/04/14

As Australia is getting on top of the pandemic, we could start opening up our economy and society soon (but not to international travellers or perhaps commerce). It will be a different economy, with limited 'globalism'.

All speculation, of course.




Observation, 2020/04/27

Worldometers reported that in Australia there had been 6,711 cases of Covid-19, 83 deaths and 5,539 people had recovered. From a high of around 400 new cases a day between March 22nd and the end of the month the average had fallen to about 15 per day over the last week.
 

Update 2020/04/28

There have now been five consecutive days with no new cases of Covid recorded in SA. The number of people confirmed to have recovered is now 418.
In my state, South Australia, cases had fallen from a peak of around 30 a day to an average of one a day over the last week, there had been four deaths and two people remained in intensive care; of a total of 438 cases, 411 had been confirmed to have recovered. Apart from one case in the far southeast of the state all active cases were in the greater metropolitan area of the state capital, Adelaide.

Yet when I posted a suggestion on Facebook that the restrictions could start to be slowly and cautiously removed most of the comments were against that action. (Most of my Facebook 'friends' live in the country districts where there were no active cases of the virus.) My impression was that an unjustified level of fear was making people over-cautious. The restrictions are causing damage to many businesses, many individuals have lost their jobs, many people are suffering financial stress and the younger generations are going to have huge government debts to pay off, but fear seems to be overriding concerns such as these.

Again I am reminded of the very different responses to the pandemic and the much greater threat of climate change. It seems that fear of an immediate personal threat, even an unjustified fear, is much more effective at getting action than concern about a huge global disaster that will reach its peak some decades in the future.

 
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Observation, 2020/05/04

My state, South Australia, has just had its twelfth day with no new Covid cases diagnosed. The talk is about how and when we are going back to normal.

My wife, Denece Clarke, and I are retired. The 'shut down' has not made much difference to our lives. We cancelled a planned 3 week trip to NSW and had a few days in the Flinders Ranges early on instead, we haven't been able to eat out at all, and have had to use take-away coffee (in our keep-cups, not throw-away ones) rather than drinking at the coffee places. And we can't visit the grandkids. Like just about everyone we've avoided going places where we would be likely to encounter many others (but we didn't do that much anyway). We've been able to walk in parks. I've done as much at Gleeson Wetlands, Crystal Brook Central Park and Bowman Park as I would have done without the shutdown.

Many would have had very different experiences: those who lost their jobs, those in supermarkets etc. who've had a lot of contact with other people, those whose businesses have been shut down, those who've had to home-school their kids and, especially perhaps, those who work in the health services.

It would be interesting to know other people's experiences. I suppose that will come in time.






Significant points

Closed cases

On 2020/04/28 Worldometers reported huge differences, and some very high figures, on the percentage of deaths among the closed cases. Cases were considered to be closed when the outcome was either 'recovered/discharged' or the victim had died.

The percentage of deaths among the 'closed cases'...

  • USA: 29%
  • Spain: 16%
  • Italy: 29%
  • France: 34%
  • Germany: 5%
  • UK: Not available

  • World: 19%
  • Australia (my country): 1.48%
Apart from Australia the countries on the list above were those with the highest numbers of Covid cases listed on the Worldommeters site. Australia was 43rd on the list, that was ordered by the number of Covid cases. The figures for percentage of deaths were tending to decline with time.

What could explain such huge differences in the percentages of deaths among the closed cases? Why the high levels in France, Italy and the USA, a significantly lower level in Spain and a much lower level in Germany. Australia could be considered a special case in this group as it has a relatively very low incidence of the pandemic.

 
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This section added 2020/04/21

The pandemic in Australia

In my country, Australia, over the last month there has been a lot of talk of 'flattening the curve', meaning slowing the spread of the virus to a long gradual build-up of cases, rather than a quick build-up that would overload the ability of our health system to handle the case load. The assumption implicit in this was that the virus would run its course through a large part of the population over either a short period (with our health system being overloaded and many deaths) or over a long period (with our health system coping and few deaths). In either case the eventual result would be the majority becoming immune following infection.

What has happened, to the present, is that the spread of the virus within Australia seems to have been almost stopped. There have been 6,600 cases in a population of 25 million. From a high of 400 to 500 new cases a day back in late March over the last week the average has been about 40 new cases each day with most of the infections coming from outside Australia. The current regulations require anyone coming into Australia from overseas going into quarantine for 14 days.

The vast majority of the Australian population remain susceptible to Covid-19, another major outbreak remains possible, but the measures aiming at 'flattening the curve' have resulted in bringing us to at least a temporary 'ending of the curve' (although our leaders speak of Australia being successful in 'flattening the curve').

I have just heard on the radio that there have only been eight new cases in mainland Australia, and no new cases in four of the six states, over the last 24 hours.

A gradual return to normality?

The logical next step seems to be a gradual and very careful reducing of restrictions within Australia. This is being discussed as I write, with the first step likely to be again allowing elective surgery.

Nearby New Zealand is in very much the same situation with the virus as Australia. It seems likely that travel and commerce between the two nations could return to normal in the near future.

 
This section edited 2020/05/10

The COVIDSafe App, an opinion

 

Why write this section?

As with much of what I write on my Web site this helps me to reason what I should do and how I think about a particular subject. This section provides a record of why I chose to not install the COVIDSafe App.
The government Internet site says of the App: "COVIDSafe recognises other devices with the COVIDSafe app installed and Bluetooth enabled. When the app recognises another user, it notes the date, time, distance and duration of the contact and the other user’s reference code." It then is available for tracing contacts between people who have been diagnosed with the disease and others who may either have given the disease to them or who may be at risk of acquiring the disease from them.

At the time of writing there were 2 known active Covid-19 cases in my state, South Australia, with a total population of about 1.7 million. The known active cases should be, and most likely would be, self-isolating. There were none north of the greater Adelaide area; that is, none within 100km of me. In the last 15 days there was only one new case of the virus (acquired overseas).

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Anyone in my area who downloaded the App would have a vanishingly small chance of encountering someone with the virus and a smaller chance of acquiring the virus from that person (considering the social distancing behaviours we are all observing).

We have been told that the App will record people who we have been in close contact with for 15 minutes or more. This would rule out people such as shop assistants who would make up the greatest number of the people most of us encounter. From a personal point of view, in the current situation when we are observing social distancing, the number of people I come into close contact with for 15 minutes or more over any particular week is very small (and I could remember who they were if needed).

I don't see justification in downloading and running the COVIDSafe App because of the far less than one in a million chance of it being of any value to me or to anyone else if I did so. It would be a different matter if there were many new cases of Covid-19 each day and new cases in my area.

Finally, my phone is an iPhone, which has been acknowledged to not interact well with the COVIDSafe app.

For much better informed facts and opinions than mine, see an article on The Conversation: How safe is COVIDSafe? What you should know about the app’s issues, and Bluetooth-related risks, 2020/05/07, by James Jin Kang, Lecturer, Computing and Security, Edith Cowan University and Paul Haskell-Dowland, Associate Dean (Computing and Security), Edith Cowan University.

 
This section added 2020/04/29

Reopening restaurants

 

Update 2020/05/09

Restaurants will be opening in South Australia for outdoor eating (in addition to take-away) from 2020/05/11.
Restaurants in South Australia have been open during the pandemic, but only for take-away food. Today there was some discussion of reopening restaurants for full service. Someone in authority is considering not allowing restaurants to use normal stainless steel cutlery ('because cutlery is handled by many people'). Instead it is proposed that they will have to use plastic throwaway cutlery enclosed in a plastic bag. I find it difficult to imagine that virus particles could survive a run through a dishwashing machine, or adhere to the cutlery in the unlikely case that they 'survived'.

This seems a fool of an idea. Apart from anything else, the virus could be on the plastic bag containing the plastic cutlery.

My wife and I have decided that if this regulation is brought in we will provide our own cutlery.

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Related pages

Related pages on external sites...

News on the CORONA virus

Worldometer; status of the pandemic worldwide

Worldometrer; COVID in Australia

Australian Broadcasting Corporation Coronavirus news

Australia's Special Broadcasting Service; Coronavirus information in your language

Related pages on this site...

Climate change vs Covid-19; climate change is a far greater disaster than the pandemic, but is getting far less action.

More on the Flinders Ranges

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Index

On this page...

The pandemic in Australia
The COVIDSafe App
Evolution of the virus
Flinders Ranges observations and comments
Impact on climate changing emissions?
Notes: 2020/03/27, Willow Springs, Flinders Ranges, South Australia
The Pandemic
Related pages
Reopening restaurants
Significant points
Thoughts, observations
  Thought 2020/04/13
  Observation, 2020/04/27
  Observation, 2020/05/04


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