As-of November 15th, more than one person per thousand had already died from the Covid-19 virus (coronavirus-19) in the nations of
and in the U.S. states of
- New Jersey (1.9 per thousand)
- New York (1.7 per thousand)
- Massachusetts (1.5 per thousand)
- Connecticut (1.3 per thousand)
- Louisiana (1.3 per thousand)
- Mississippi (1.2 per thousand)
- Rhode Island (1.2 per thousand)
(Nationwide, the U.S. death-rate is 759 per million or .759 per thousand.)
Here are the nations with over 5 million population that have the lowest death-rates from the disease:
- Cambodia (0)
- Laos (0)
- Burundi (1 per 12,015,509)
- Taiwan (1 per 3,404,638)
- Vietnam (1 per 2,790,141)
- Papua (1 per 1,286,790)
- Thailand (1 per 1,164,395)
- Sri Lanka (1 per 487,406)
- Niger (1 per 355,300)
- Uganda (1 per 347,734)
- Rwanda (1 per 326,650)
- Mozambique (1 per 318,834)
- Burkina Faso (1 per 315,011)
- China (1 per 310,869)
- DRC (1 per 286,454)
- Benin (1 per 284548)
- Singapore (1 per 209,535)
- Ivory Coast (1 per 211,189)
- South Sudan (1 per 190,525)
- New Zealand (1 per 200,084)
Here are the U.S. states with the lowest death-rates from the disease:
- Vermont (1 per 10,576; or .95 per ten thousand, or .095 per thousand)
- Maine (1 per 8,617)
- Alaska (1 per 7,951 — the explosion of the disease started only recently there)
- Hawaii (1 per 6,378)
- Oregon (1 per 5,723)
In order properly to understand these numbers (such as the low death-rates in some African countries), an important underlying variable is the median age of the land’s population, because, for example, the median age for Burundi is only 17, and, therefore, San Marino, where the median age is 44.4, is naturally likely to have a vastly higher death-rate from this disease. Apples should be compared with apples, not with oranges. However, the median age in Vermont is 42.8 (America’s third-highest), and in Maine is 44.9 (America’s highest), and yet both states have America’s lowest two death-rates from this disease; so, governmental policies and their public acceptance and enforcement can be even more important than is the physical population. Nature isn’t everything; nurture can be an even bigger determinant of success or failure.
Furthermore, all three of the highest death-rate countries have incredibly polarized and therefore dysfunctional ‘democratic’ governments, and this means that they are especially likely to fail to have unity — and therefore effectiveness — in responding to an emergency, which this evolving event is. Slow response and adjustment to it is then like no response, because it comes too late, in an emergency situation. Moreover, San Marino’s economy is at least 50% tourism-based, which is the sector that is the hardest hit by the pandemic, as a consequence of which, the pressures to underestimate the pandemic’s danger are especially large there.
As that same website which I’ve cited for the coronavirus death-rates also shows, worldwide the daily death rate from the disease, which was 67 on 2 March 2020, soared to 8,534 by the time of 17 April 2020, and didn’t exceed that number until 4 November 2020 at 9,152, despite the world’s having been taking increasing measures to reduce the spread of the disease. However, since the global death-rate from the virus has finally broken through the initial peak of 8,534, we can now expect either greatly increased measures to be taken against the disease’s spread, or else the daily death-rate from it to be soaring, in at least the near-term future.
If the daily death-rate from it will be soaring in the near-term future, then the public will become increasingly afraid to be anywhere with strangers; and, consequently, all modes of employment that require employees to be physically near strangers will need to pay higher and higher wages in order to be able to remain in business, and the local economy will therefore be in a downward spiral unless and until that situation becomes reversed.
Consequently, the economy will likely be hit hard now, either way. During an epidemic, harm to the economy is inevitable in the short term, regardless of whether the government acts or not. But during the long term, carefully calibrated scientifically calculated measures to reduce the spread of the epidemic are optimal (for the long term benefits), and anything that impedes this is therefore a threat against the entire public. Whereas a threat against the general public is acceptable to a psychopath (or “sociopath”) and is consistent with pure capitalism (“libertarianism” or “neoliberalism”), it is not acceptable to a democratic socialist (“social democratic”) person, or to a patriot in a country that asserts the general welfare to be among its fundamental priorities (such as the U.S. Constitution does in its General Welfare Clause and especially in its most-fundamental passage, the Preamble, which asserts the ultimate objectives which that Constitution is directed at serving). Therefore, in the latter type of country, pure capitalism is actually unpatriotic, and democratic socialism is obligatory for the Government to adhere to, regardless of whether or not that country’s existing leaders adhere to it, or publicly acknowledge the fact that their Constitution is actually social-democratic, and not (and certainly not purely) capitalistic.
(For examples: Abraham Lincoln said: “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.” So, he certainly was a social democrat. And Lincoln’s hero, Thomas Jefferson, wrote, on 12 November 1816, to his long-time friend, Dr. George Logan of Philadelphia, about the “profligacy” of England’s government, wasting resources to prop up its international corporations, which Jefferson said had brought about “the ruin of its people” in order to benefit those aristocrats. He said, “This ruin [in England] will fall heaviest, as it ought to fall, on that hereditary aristocracy which has for generations been preparing the catastrophe [meaning creating the catastrophe (by corrupting the government), not meaning to prepare for the catastrophe]. I hope we shall take warning from the [English] example [e.g., the British East India Company] and crush in it’s birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.” So, he too was hostile toward capitalism and favorable toward democratic socialism. America’s Founders — including even its last Founder, Lincoln — supported democracy, and opposed aristocracy, or rule by the controlling owners of corporations. But today’s America — in regard to both its Democratic Party and its Republican Party — is controlled by its billionaires; and, so, this nation is now definitely an aristocracy, instead of a democracy.)
One argument that is being put forth for pure capitalism regarding this virus is “herd immunity,” the idea (which has been endorsed in the neoliberal Council on Foreign Relations’s prestigious journal Foreign Affairs, and also by U.S. President Donald Trump), which is that if a sufficiently high percentage of the population become infected with it and survive, then they will automatically be immune from catching the disease in the future, and so anyone else (the never-infected) will become less likely to catch the disease from others. Like other libertarian (or “neoliberal) thinking, it trusts to nature as being optimal, and accepts unlimited “survival of the fittest,” and rejects social democracy or any general-welfare constitution (such as America has and which is being routinely violated by America’s own Government). However, the assumption that everyone who survives an infection from this virus is immune against becoming infected with it again, has not been established, and there are also many other falsehoods in applying the “natural herd immunity” concept to this particular virus — a virus whose epidemiological characteristics are still not yet understood. As National Geographic recently explained, “Banking on natural infection to control the outbreak would lead to months, if not years, of a dismaying cycle in which cases subside and then surge.” Furthermore, even if the idea that a natural herd immunity might become able to protect a nation’s population, would not a synthetic herd immunity from an effective vaccine be preferable — and much faster? It will prevent the millions of deaths, and even more millions of cases, that would be suffered until a natural herd-immunity exists — if such a natural herd immunity ever will exist. This is the purpose of the policies in the lands that have thus far been the most effective at keeping down the amounts of disease and death from Covid-19. This is a holding action, so as to save the health and the lives of millions of people who would otherwise be unnecessarily wasted while the world waits for a vaccine. The “natural herd immunity” approach isn’t only psychopathic, it is grossly inefficient.
A personal friend emailed me with objections against my opposition to libertarian (or “neoliberal”) policies regarding coronavirus-19 (covid-19). He especially argued that we both share views that the Government in our own country is deeply corrupt, and I replied:
That’s irrelevant because the data convince me that the types of policies that countries such as China and Taiwan and Vietnam and Cambodia and Myanmar and then New Zealand and then Vermont pursued — all with strong compliance from their respective publics — have worked, and that the policies that countries such as U.S. and Brazil and Belgium and Chile pursued have failed. Peru is an especially interesting case because its President wanted to impose the necessary measures but wasn’t able to, for many reasons, but especially because nothing was able to “create this new culture of respect for the rules to learn how to live with the virus” (as the euphemistic BBC obliquely phrased the core reality behind Peru’s failure). The situation in Peru was the exact opposite of the situation in Vermont, where the public virtually pushed the Governor by accusing him of NOT imposing masking requirements etc. at the very beginning, and he quickly recognized and rectified his error and as a result Vermont quickly became — and has since remained — the #1 state in controlling the spread of this virus. Success needs both the right leadership and the right public, and failure has resulted where either or both were lacking.
I said in response to his statement: “I really can not sympathize with those who are fearing for their own lives because of a virus with a 99% survival rate. They shouldn’t be doing the thinking for the rest of us.”:
I couldn’t disagree more with that libertarian viewpoint. Public health — especially when the issue is a communicable disease, an epidemic or a potential epidemic — relies (above all) on the obligation of every individual in the society to NOT engage in behaviors that HELP to spread the disease. Vaccination is an obligation and not ONLY a right in such a situation. When a vaccine doesn’t yet exist, then the obligation — of every individual in the society to NOT engage in behaviors that HELP to spread the disease — isn’t an obligation to be vaccinated (since that’s not yet even possible) but it is instead an obligation to adhere to masking requirements and other necessary behaviors to minimize the spread of the communicable disease. The libertarian attitude produces mass-injury, mass-death, mass-disability, and mass-unemployment, in handling a communicable disease, where the OBLIGATION to society is not recognized, but only the individual RIGHT is recognized — that is psychopathic and irresponsible.
Furthermore: you are false to say that this is only “a virus with a 99% survival rate”: it is a vastly more-contagious virus than the Spanish flu which was the other mega-pandemic since 1900, but it has a lower mortality-rate; and, so, for you to focus only on the latter (the fatality-rate) is blind to an important half of the reality regarding this virus.
Already, 251,256 Americans have died from this new virus and 11,226,038 have been diagnosed as being ill from it and many who have survived the initial illness are having potentially life-threatening organ-failures from it and tens of millions of Americans reasonably fear going to work as barbers or restaurants or hotels or medical workers etc., and yet you say “I really can not sympathize with those who are fearing for their own lives because of a virus with a 99% survival rate. They shouldn’t be doing the thinking for the rest of us.” That statement isn’t only blind to half the reality about this virus but is callous, which I know that you are not. So, it shocked me. (Furthermore, already over 2% of Americans who have been diagnosed as having this disease have died from it and that percentage keeps rising; so whether in the final analysis this plague will kill a higher percentage of the world than the Spanish flu did is still an open question, and vaccines against it will largely determine the answer.)
You instead are choosing to dismiss the relevant data, which are the actual policy-outcomes in the 200+ countries throughout the world — including different policies in each of those countries.
Perhaps you think that the data that China which has 60 cases per million residents and 3 deaths per million residents from this virus and that America which has 33,725 cases per million residents and 757 deaths per million residents from this virus should be ignored. Perhaps you think that the data that Vermont which has 4,556 cases per million residents and 95 deaths per million residents from this virus and that North Dakota which has 82,502 cases per million residents and 953 deaths per million residents from this virus should be ignored. Those are all policy-outcomes. Each of those lands has its own policy, and those are the outcomes from it. I have looked at what the policies are, and, to me, the idea that those data should be ignored in evaluating those policies is foolish in the extreme. I am no expert in epidemiology and don’t pretend to be; but your ‘evidence’ is nothing that I would cite, for or against anything — and certainly not for interpreting the global policy-outcomes. I think that you are focusing on balls that aren’t even in this game. You’re focusing on different games, and different balls.
Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture
Vaccine inequity triggers ‘huge disconnect’ between countries
Although COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to decline globally for a second consecutive week, the UN health agency chief said on Monday that “a huge disconnect” is mounting between some highly vaccinated countries, which see the pandemic as largely resolved, while huge waves of infection continue to grip others where shots are scarce.
“The pandemic is a long way from over, and it will not be over anywhere until it’s over everywhere”, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) told journalists once more, at the regular press briefing in Geneva.
Still under threat
Tedros pointed to “dramatic increases” in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, in places where the coronavirus had previously been contained and added that new variants, fragile health systems, relaxed public health measures – and shortages of oxygen, dexamethasone and vaccines – were compounding the problem.
“But there are solutions”, he said, urging people to adhere to physical distancing, continue to wear masks and avoid large gatherings. “Even where cases have dropped, genetic sequencing is critical so that variants can be tracked and measures are not eased prematurely”.
Urgent financial support needed
Although WHO has been responding to the surge in India and other flashpoints, immediate additional funding is required to sustain support in all countries experiencing new waves of cases.
The 2021 response plan is already underfunded, and the vast majority of it is “ring fenced” by donors for specific countries or activities, which is constraining WHO’s ability to provide “an adaptable and scalable response in emerging hotspots”, Tedros said.
Urgent and flexible funding would allow the UN health agency to scale up support for countries and the ACT Accelerator.
Set ambitious goals ‘collectively’
While COVAX has delivered 65 million doses to 124 countries and economies to date, the WHO chief called on manufacturers to publicly commit to sharing their vaccines with COVAX by lifting contractual barriers “within days not months”.
He also pressed manufacturers to give the right of first refusal to COVAX on any additional doses and encouraged them to make deals with companies willing to use their facilities to produce COVID-19 vaccines.
“We need to collectively set ambitious goals to at least vaccinate the world’s adult population as quickly as possible”, Tedros underscored.
Road safety priorities
Although pandemic lockdowns and telecommuting has led to fewer car journeys and road crashes, the WHO chief pointed to a converse problem caused by drivers’ speeding. This has meant the number of deaths had not decreased proportionately.
Kicking off UN Road Safety Week, Tedros asked for national and local policy commitments “to deliver 30 kilometre per hour speed limits in urban areas and generate local support for low speed measures overall”.
Addressing the risk of road traffic deaths is also fundamental to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically those affecting health security, sustainable cities and reducing inequalities among and within countries.
And policies that tackle the of impact road traffic, and create environments for safe, sustainable and inclusive transport options, also unlock action for protecting the climate and gender equality.
A paradigm shift in how streets are designed can make streets safe, accessible and equitable for all road users – delivering multiple benefits while accelerating action across interlinking SDGs, according to WHO.
WHO approves Chinese COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use
A COVID-19 vaccine produced in China has been given the green light for global rollout, potentially paving the way for its use in underserved countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Friday.
The UN agency has approved the Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use, which is a prerequisite for inclusion in the global vaccine solidarity initiative, COVAX.
The vaccine is easy to store, making it suitable for locations with limited resources, and proved 79 per cent effective in clinical trials.
“The addition of this vaccine has the potential to rapidly accelerate COVID-19 vaccine access for countries seeking to protect health workers and populations at risk”, said Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Health Products.
“We urge the manufacturer to participate in the COVAX Facility and contribute to the goal of more equitable vaccine distribution.”
A vaccine first
The Sinopharm vaccine is produced by Beijing Bio-Institute of Biological Products Co Ltd, a subsidiary of China National Biotec Group (CNBG).
It is the first vaccine to carry a vaccine vial monitor. The vials have a small sticker that changes colour as the vaccine is exposed to heat, so health workers know whether it can be safely used.
The vaccine is recommended for adults 18 and older, with a two-dose schedule spaced over a period of three to four weeks.
Although few people over 60 participated in the clinical trials, WHO did not recommend an upper age limit for use as data suggests the vaccine is likely to have a protective effect in older persons.
Safely expediting vaccines
WHO emergency use listing (EUL) allows countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer COVID-19 vaccines.
The EUL process assesses the suitability of new medicines, vaccines and diagnostics during public health emergencies.
The goal is to make them available as rapidly as possible, while maintaining strict criteria of safety, efficacy and quality.
The Sinopharm vaccine is the sixth to receive the EUL approval. The others are by Pfizer/BioNTech, Astrazeneca-SK Bio, Serum Institute of India, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) and Moderna.
Risky business: COVID-19 and safety at work
The numbers of home workers around the world have been swelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, putting a fresh focus on the need for employers to ensure that their employees are working in a safe environment. On the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, we look at some of the ways the UN is helping employers and governments to keep people safe, wherever they work.
The world of work has been upended by COVID-19, and the effects are likely to be long-lasting. Before the pandemic, there were some 260 million home-based workers (not including domestic or care workers). The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that figure could have doubled, with as many as one in three workers remote working in North America and Europe, and one in six in sub-Saharan Africa.
The rollout of vaccines, mainly in the developed world, has increased the possibilities of a return to the workplace, but many companies and workers have signalled a wish to retain a degree of home working, after seeing some of the benefits. For employers, these include minimising the risk of contagion and potentially spending less on expensive office space whilst staff no longer have to spend commuting to and from the workplace.
‘If you’re losing your mind, I’m right there with you’
However, whilst some are enjoying baking bread or taking a stroll during a conference call, and using the commuting time to indulge in new pursuits, others have been craving a return to a more structured work-life routine.
“I tell myself daily that I am grateful to have a job with understanding supervisors and colleagues. But all of it is hard. If you’re also a working mum losing her mind daily, know that I’m right there with you,” says Paulina, a New York-based teleworker.
“I have chaired meetings with a laptop and headphones on one side of a tiny, New York City kitchen while cooking lunch and having a screaming toddler wrapped around my ankles. While all of this is cute once or maybe twice, regular screams of children in the background can only be tolerated for so long. I should know, because I passed that line sometime in July.”
Stories such as this explain why a recent study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) found that 41 per cent of people who worked from home considered themselves highly stressed, compared to 25 per cent of those who worked on-site.
“The most effective way to eliminate the risk of contagion in a work context is, for those who can do it, teleworking, says Joaquim Nunes, head of occupational health and safety at the ILO, “But we still need to pay attention to the physical and mental well-being of workers”.
As teleworking is likely to remain an important factor in many people’s jobs, Mr. Nunes says that work-related policies will have to be updated to reflect the new reality.
“There’s a good chance that the rise of teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic will permanently change how we live and work. Many governments have realised this, and are taking a fresh look at the rights of employees working from home. For example, companies should ensure that workers do not feel isolated, whilst giving them the right to disconnect, rather than being online 24 hours a day”.
In Chile, a law adopted early in March 2020 goes some way to addressing some of these concerns. The legislation recognizes the right of remote workers to disconnect for at least 12 continuous hours in a 24-hour period. In addition, employers cannot require workers to respond to communications on rest days or holidays.
A healthy home?
Beyond the question of comfort and mental health, is one of physical safety. It is often said that most accidents happen at home, so, if this is where much of the working week is spent, should employers be responsible for making sure apartments aren’t death traps?
“For now, there are no easy answers when it comes to ensuring a suitable home office environment”, says Mr. Nunes. “However, we can say that the same principles that apply to other workplaces apply to teleworkers, in that employers have a general duty of care, as reasonably practicable. Employers can’t control the workplace when staff are working from home, but they can provide ergonomic equipment to workers, such as suitable chairs, and help them to assess their own risks and to learn about how to maintain healthy lifestyles.”
Teleworking is also challenging for enforcement agencies, as usually inspectors do not have free access to the private spaces. One solution to ensure compliance with legislation could be virtual inspections, which are already taking place in Nordic countries on a voluntary basis. “These involve labour inspectors video calling a worker at home, and being shown their work chair, desk, and lighting setup”, explains Mr. Nunes. “These inspections can serve as a way to monitor the home workplace and provide advice, but also raise understandable privacy concerns”.
Whilst the new teleworkers and their employers grappled with their new reality, a large part of the global workforce had no choice but to go to a physical place of work. The difficulties faced by health care workers were widely reported, but employees in several other industries had to brave the trip to the workplace – sometimes on crowded trains and buses – and, often, interact with other people, at considerable risk to their health.
In the US, these fears led to collective action by workers at Whole Foods, a grocery subsidiary of Amazon. On March 31, 2020, in response to seeing their colleagues testing positive with COVID-19, workers decided to call in sick, and demand sick leave, free coronavirus testing and hazard pay. This was followed in April by work stoppages at some of America’s biggest companies, including Walmart, Target and FedEx.
Whilst early advice on protection and prevention focused on measures such as hand washing, the wearing of masks and gloves, and physical distancing, the ILO quickly realised that more needed to be done to address work-related issues.
“In the workplace, you have to think about more than just the individual worker: the whole environment needs to be protected’, explains Mr. Nunes. “One example that many of us will have come across is in shops and supermarkets, where it is now common to see PVC separators between cashiers and customers. Work surfaces are also being cleaned much more frequently, but this raises other concerns that need to be addressed, such as the potential for skin complaints or respiratory problems caused by the chemicals in cleaning products.”
Whilst areas such as healthcare and retail have been grappling with these issues for several months, other parts of the economy could soon be opening up. In several countries, plans are being made to allow gatherings of large numbers of people to take place, in venues such as concert halls and cinemas, and, heading into summer in the northern hemisphere, the range of permitted tourist activities looks set to expand.
However, for this to take place, and for economies to safely open, governments and employers, in collaboration with workers, will need to make sure that workers in these, and all other industries, are safe at their workplaces, and confident they will not be exposed to unnecessary risks, particularly those related to COVID-19.
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