Well, I have finally finished my tax return. It wasn’t hard, I use a simple cash-in minus cash-out approach and my pension is already preloaded. It didn’t take this long because it was hard, it took this long because I really didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to send a penny to Wastemonster – they haven’t sent a penny to me during lockdown.
In the end I didn’t owe them anything. Unfortunately I didn’t get far enough down to get a rebate but at least I don’t have to add anything to the money they are wasting.
The latest on Covid is that the new strain ‘appears to be’ more deadly than the old one. They are talking in terms of 30% more deadly. Well the old one had a kill rate of 0.3% of those infected. Increase that by adding another 30% and the kill rate soars to… 0.4%. That doesn’t sound quite as scary as ‘30% more deadly’, does it?
I put ‘appears to be’ in quotes there because they are guessing. It transpires that only 8% of cases have had the actual strain determined. 92% are just generic Covid and a lot of those aren’t Covid at all. Could be any one of the 4000+ strains so far identified. Most of which do the same as the original, or are less harmful.
These days it’s possible to detect a change in one nucleotide on a strand of RNA. That change might stop the new virus or it might make it more or less virulent or it might have no detectable effect at all. It still counts as a new strain. We can find minute changes at the molecular level with modern techniques and equipment, so we can define a new strain even if its real world effect is no different at all from the original.
Why? I’m a microbiologist. Every one of us would love to be the one to name a new strain of something. It used to take some actual biochemical real world differences, now all it takes is a molecule. Don’t be alarmed at the mutant strains, it’s what viruses do, and RNA viruses are so inherently unstable they can throw out a new mutation every week.
It’s not really accurate to describe a virus as ‘alive’. It’s not even a whole cell, it’s a bit of RNA or DNA wrapped in fat and/or protein. If it happens to stick to an appropriate cell, it is drawn inside and replicates – but this is no more than a complex series of chemical reactions. There is no ‘intent’ on the part of the virus. It spreads by pure chance. It’s neither good nor evil. It’s a bundle of chemicals in a bag.
It mutates because the complex series of reactions is prone to error. With some, like HIV, even a small error can produce a nonviable virus so there aren’t many strains. With coronaviruses, well a few small errors won’t stop it. It’ll hit a critical error often and produce duds that can’t infect but an infected person produces so many millions of copies that even if only 10% are viable, it’s enough to keep the virus going. In that 10% there’ll always be a few that are a litle bit different, but they still work.
As a general rule, if a variant spreads more easily, it’s because it’s less dangerous. A less dangerous virus won’t leave you whacked out in bed for a few weeks. You’ll still be able to function so you’ll pass the virus on. Now, I don’t expect politicians to know this. They haven’t studied the subject. They have to rely on advisors who do know.
SAGE, unfortunately, is stacked with behavioural psychologists and epidemiologists, not virologists or even microbiologists. Some of them have clear conflicts of interests with their stakes in vaccine companies. They are not advising on the basis of science, but of their own personal interests. This is becoming increasingly clear. Apparently not to the government, though.
Mad Hancock has laid out his provisions for ending lockdown, one of which is ‘no new variant’ and since this kind of virus mutates faster than anything science fiction has ever dreamed of, lockdown can never end. He has also stated that the South African variant is more dangerous and might bypass the vaccine. Well, he probably doesn’t realise it, but he just destroyed the case for the vaccine.
You have a vaccine that works against a disease with a 99.7% recovery rate, but it doesn’t work against a much more dangerous variant. So the vaccine is now pointless. It achieves nothing. I suspect the SAGE members with shares in vaccine companies won’t be too happy when (if) they realise this.
Meanwhile Rishi Sunak is considering raising taxes in the next budget to pay for this debacle. That’s right, you don’t just suffer it, you get to pay for it too. I wonder where he thinks he’ll get those taxes, now that most of the private sector is bust. Taxing the public sector, which is paid via taxation, is an exercise in circular futility. I expect he’ll do it anyway. There’s not much else left to tax.
Better stock up on booze and baccy before the next budget. They’ll be hit very hard indeed.
Time to resurrect all that dusty fermentation equipment…