Day: 21 August 2021

Delta Surge Peaks and Declines in U.S. States

Some of the U.S. states which have been experiencing a Delta surge appear to have peaked. The chart above shows that Missouri has not seen sustained growth in daily reported infections since August 4th, Arkansas since August 7th, and Louisiana and Florida since August 13th. Since none of these states imposed new restrictions to try to combat the Delta variant, this demonstrates that a surge driven by the Delta variant, like those of previous variants, is self-limiting and, contrary to the predictions of the models, does not continue growing exponentially and infecting everyone not previously infected. Not everyone is equally susceptible. Will the modellers now adjust their assumptions to the realities observed on the ground?

Is This Hands-Free, Virus-Scanning Workplace the Future of the Office?

A good deal of companies are telling their staff to continue working from home, but even those workers who do return to the office could find that their surroundings are not quite as they once were. This, at least, is the hope of some Bucharest designers who have implemented almost 150 ‘Covid-free’ measures in a new office design, including hands-free door handles and thermal body cameras, which they hope to see being adopted by office planners around the world. The Guardian has the story.

Entering H3, a five-storey building in a western neighbourhood of the Romanian capital, is like learning the steps to a new dance. A flick of the wrist opens the door, and a red line marks the spot at which to stand from where a thermal body camera two metres away scans arrivals for signs of fever. Those who are ‘green-lighted’ can follow the tracks to the self-clean lift, step on one of two foot pads and be transported through the building, safe in the knowledge that a UV lighting disinfection system installed in the ventilation shafts is keeping them infection-free between floors.

Anyone whose head flashes red on the screen, however, is whisked away by a plastic-gloved ‘immune steward’ into a nearby quarantine room: a glass box with a panic button and its own internal ventilation system shut off from the rest of the building. A ‘Viruskiller’ apparatus on the wall, boasting three levels of fan strength, promises to remove anything nasty such as pollutants, mould or spores that may be infecting the air, with back up provided by a sanitising UV light on the wall.

This view of the future may alarm some. Modelled on hospital technology, is this sanitised environment a place to which employees will want to return once the pandemic is considered sufficiently under control? In Romania, just as elsewhere in Europe, the majority of office workers were confined to home for much of the past 18 months. Surveys show many are nervous about the prospect of coming back.

“The point is to reassure them. We don’t want people to panic,” says Gavin Bonner, one of the main coordinators behind the Immune building standard project, which has brought together health professionals, architects, engineers, IT and building managers from around the world to help corporations prepare for post-pandemic life.

The publicly available standard, trademarked Immune, has already been applied to several buildings in the U.K. Its developers include the leading Romanian property company Genesis, also the H3 landlord, and the project has cost about €1 million (£850,560). More than a dozen other buildings, from the U.S. to Singapore, are in the process of obtaining their Immune certification, according to Liviu Tudor, the CEO of Genesis. The H3 building, as the most protected space so far, acts as the showroom, incorporating all 135 of the recommended measures.

The project is open source “in an effort to pool the best ideas”, says Tudor, who has lodged an application with the E.U. in the hope it will form the basis for a new standard across the bloc, similar to conventional fire safety codes. It embraces everything from technological innovation and scientific knowledge to workplace psychology, he says, and he hopes it will embolden both employers and employees, millions of whom are now engaged in an intense conversation about whether it is safe to return to the office – and if so, how.

Worth reading in full.

Sydney Anti-Lockdown Protest Organiser Sentenced to Eight Months in Prison

One of the organisers of a recent anti-lockdown protest in Sydney has been sentenced to a maximum of eight months in prison for helping to plan an “unauthorised” demonstration and for breaking other lockdown-related rules. He will serve a minimum of three months in prison. The Guardian has the story.

Anthony Khallouf, 29, one of the organisers of last month’s anti-lockdown protests and a key figurehead in the broader movement surrounding it, was arrested by police in Sydney on Thursday after travelling from Queensland in breach of public health orders.

Khallouf appeared in Hornsby local court on Friday, charged with breaches of public health orders, including travelling from Queensland to Sydney and his involvement in planning an unauthorised protest for this weekend.

He pleaded guilty to four counts of not complying with a direction relating to Covid, encouraging the commission of crimes, and false representation resulting in a police investigation.

New South Wales police said in a statement on Friday afternoon that he was sentenced to a maximum of eight months in prison, with a non-parole period of three months.

Khallouf is the founder of Australians vs The Agenda, one of the larger anti-lockdown groups with more than 12,000 followers on Telegram. Originally from Victoria, last year he was charged with incitement for allegedly helping to organise a protest in Melbourne.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Damien Cave writes in the New York Times on Australia’s reliance on quarantine infrastructure as a long-term answer to Covid.

The problem… is that even humane quarantine amounts to a forced retreat. The decisions made by governments about who poses a risk are rarely politics-free, and frequently go beyond medicine to fears shaped by emotions and biases.

Also worth reading in full.

New Ad For NHS COVID-19 App Admits it’s Unfit For Purpose

I received an email this morning from David Livermore, Professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of East Anglia, about the Government’s latest ad (see above). Apart from the inadvertent admission that ‘pinging’ is a woefully inefficient way of interrupting the chain of transmission, it’s breathtakingly illiterate. The drudge working for 23Red or Freuds, or whichever agency the Government has paid hundreds of millions of pounds to write its propaganda, has no idea how to use the simple comma. Prof Livermore queries one of them, but by my reckoning the commas after “virus”, “every day”, “need” and “together” are all superfluous. I would make a crack about the copywriter lacking a good GCSE pass in English, but, alas, you can get a First in English at Oxford these days and still be semi-literate.

Dear Toby,

Did you see this Govt advert… torn (rather badly) from Friday’s D Tel, and doubtless published elsewhere too?

Put aside the peculiar use of the royal “we”, the slippery “up to” and the redundant comma after “need”.

It’s the rare candour that matters.

First, the Govt is paying to say en claire that “Even if we have been vaccinated, we can still get the virus and pass it on”. That one sentence, which is supported by mounting evidence, demolishes their whole argument for Vaccine Passports.

Second, the “up to 2,000 new infections per day” sounds a lot until one sets it against the current daily tally of c. 30,000-35,000 positives by PCR and the fact that the App pinged around 600,000 souls in July, or an average of just under 20,000 per day.

Taking the upper limit of “2000 cases per day” therefore suggests that the App prevents far fewer than 10% of cases and that a maximum of 10% of those pinged are actually infected. Counterwise, 90% of cases are not forewarned by the App and 90% of those pinged are inconvenienced or frightened when they are not infected

Such figures would ordinarily lead any developer to conclude ‘Not fit for purpose’ and it is rare to see a ‘vendor’ damn their own product so comprehensively in so few of their own words. Gerald Ratner famously did it in the 1980s, describing a sherry decanter that his eponymous company was selling for £4.95 as “Total crap”. Which it doubtless was. But, at least he hadn’t developed the wretched thing using £22 billion of our money and didn’t have the temerity to suggest it was our moral duty to start using it.

Best,

David

English Rules on International Travel Have Changed 50 Times Since the First Lockdown, Analysis Shows

Feel confused about the rules on international travel? No wonder: analysis by PA news agency shows that, in England alone, they have been changed 50 times since the first lockdown. And next week, the Government will change them again! Sky News has the story.

The Green, Amber, and Red travel lists have been updated every three weeks since they were introduced in May with the list of quarantine-free travel corridors changing nearly every week during its existence between July 2020 and January 2021.

Many holidaymakers have been forced to cut trips short and rush home before tougher rules for arrivals from their destination were introduced, including Transport Secretary Grant Shapps who was caught out when Spain was removed from the travel corridors list after being on it for just 16 days.

The travel industry has expressed dismay at the “constant rollercoaster” of alteration and has called for regulations to be made simpler.

Chief Executive of travel trade association ABTA, Mark Tanzer, said fears about the status of a destination being changed are “reducing the public’s confidence about taking an overseas break” and urged the Government to be “much clearer about the data and rationale” behind its decisions. …

Johan Lundgren, the Chief Executive of easyJet, said: “It’s no wonder that consumers in the U.K. are confused.”

“Now is the time for the Government to simplify the rules around travel, make Green truly Green and restriction-free, remove expensive and unnecessary testing requirements for the fully vaccinated travelling from Amber countries, and put an end to this constant rollercoaster of changes,” he added. …

The next update to the traffic light lists is due next week.

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up