Delta Variant is Sending Some Places Back to Masks

Australia’s COVID-Zero policy has 70% of Australians in lockdown and business owners worried for the future. With each country border that you cross having different rules about COVID, vaccines, and vaccine passports, international travel will likely be complicated for a while. Even within the US, policies vary: professional golfers are facing strict policies while Arizona’s governor pushes back against masks, mandates, and more. Also, more Fauci lies are unraveling. 

In response to the Delta variant, Hong Kong has banned all flights from the UK. Abu Dhabi banned unvaccinated people from public places. Israel, despite its vaccination rate, is returning to indoor mask mandates.

In other news:

  • Martin Kulldorff and Jay Bhattacharya on how to restore the public’s trust in scientific experts in the Wall Street Journal
  • A look at public misconceptions v. data by Alex Gutentag in Tablet
  • Frank Lechner on how the pandemic made it easy to suppress our liberties 
  • Some good historical parallels on the end of the pandemic from Ross Clark at The Sun

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COVID News

Australia’s Covid success crumbles: Country was hailed for closed-borders zero-virus policy that let Aussies live a normal life but now cities are in lockdown as Indian variant spreads through population with just 5% vaccination rate

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9732481/Australias-Covid-success-crumbles-Cities-lockdown-borders-closed-hardly-vaccinations.html

More than two-thirds of Australians have been placed under new lockdown rules as cases of the Indian variant have flared up across the country after escaping from quarantine hotels. 

With just 5 per cent of the population fully vaccinated and the more infectious strain on the loose, Australia’s vaunted ‘zero Covid’ strategy – which allowed its economy to get back up and running last year – is on precarious ground. 

Around 18 million Australians, 70 per cent of the population, are now under some form of lockdown restrictions after cases of the Indian variant exploded out of quarantine hotels in Brisbane, Darwin, Perth and Sydney.  

The largest outbreak is in Sydney, where 130 people have tested positive for Covid-19 since a limousine driver for an international flight crew was diagnosed with the Indian variant on June 16. The city’s residents are now under a draconian stay-at-home order for two weeks.  

Eager to Go Overseas This Summer? A Covid-19 Vaccine Will Help

https://www.wsj.com/articles/eager-to-go-overseas-this-summer-a-covid-19-vaccine-will-help-11624905213

Governments around the world are trying to capitalize on rising Covid-19 vaccination rates to kick-start international travel again, but officials and travel-industry executives are clashing over how.

The European Union is slated to roll out a digital health certificate this week—allowing vaccinated residents to travel restriction-free across the bloc. Canada and the U.K., meanwhile, have said residents can travel overseas again without having to quarantine on their return—as long as they are fully vaccinated. South Korea has said it would allow vaccinated visitors into the country without quarantine restrictions, and Ecuador has dropped testing requirements for vaccinated visitors.

Industry executives complain that the vaccine-related easings aren’t being coordinated adequately and are being rolled out too slowly.

“It’s really confusing and that’s part of the challenge,” Virginia Messina, senior vice president at the World Travel & Tourism Council, said. “It’s understanding what the rules are in the country you’re going to and then what the rules are when you return.”

Golfers to face strict COVID-19 protocols at The Open

https://www.espn.com/golf/story/_/id/31704671/golfers-face-strict-covid-19-protocols-open

While COVID-19 restrictions are being eased across the United States, PGA Tour players who travel to The Open in England next month will face protocols and procedures more strict than any they have seen in months.

According to a “Player Information Update” sent this week and obtained by ESPN, The Open at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England, will “operate under strict government oversight from the UK government,” according to Martin Slumbers, CEO of the R&A, which runs The Open.

The tournament begins July 15.

Among other things, players will not be allowed to share accommodations and will be required to undergo COVID-19 testing, regardless of vaccination status. They will not be allowed to visit restaurants, pubs or grocery stores — all of which have been allowed for months at PGA Tour events in the United States.

Gov. Ducey’s executive order bans COVID-19 vaccine requirement, mask mandates at public universities, colleges

https://www.12news.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/gov-ducey-arizona-college-students-not-required-covid-19-vaccine-masks-arizona-state-university-public-schools/75-3afbdd04-ca68-4871-9fcf-3f96d4aa13b0

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued a new executive order on Tuesday that prevents public universities and community colleges in Arizona from requiring students to get a COVID-19 vaccine, show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination, take mandatory COVID-19 tests or wear masks.

This comes a day after Ducey took to Twitter to voice opposition to an email sent out by Arizona State University saying that “all students enrolled in an on-campus academic program for 2021-2022 will be vaccinated.”

“The communication that we issued this week is really a continuation of the policies that have successfully guided this university in our system please through the pandemic we have been a big proponent of continuing in person learning,” said Vice President, Media Relations & Strategic Communications, at  Arizona State University Katie Paquet. 

Dr. Fauci ‘caught lying’ to Congress after book exposes details of Wuhan lab-linked grant, lawmaker says

https://news.yahoo.com/dr-fauci-apos-caught-lying-163722389.html

Lawmakers are reacting to reports that Dr. Anthony Fauci initially resisted a Trump-era order to cancel a controversial research grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) linked to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in April 2020.

Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, initially resisted a White House directive to cancel the NIH grant to EcoHealth Alliance — a nonprofit conducting research on coronaviruses that had previously worked with the Wuhan lab some experts fingered as the origin of COVID-19 . He later “reluctantly agreed” after learning then-President Trump was directly behind the order, according to an upcoming book by Washington Post reporters Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta.

Commentary/Analysis

A Covid Commission Americans Can Trust

https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-covid-commission-americans-can-trust-11624823367

The pandemic is on its way out, but how many Americans think the U.S. approach succeeded? More than 600,000 Americans died from Covid, and lockdowns have left extensive collateral damage. Trust in science has eroded, and the damage won’t be limited to epidemiology, virology and public health. Scientists in other fields will unfortunately also have to deal with the fallout, including oncologists, physicists, computer scientists, environmental engineers and even economists.

The first step to restoring the public’s trust in scientific experts is an honest and comprehensive evaluation of the nation’s pandemic response. Sens. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) and Susan Collins (R., Maine) have introduced a bill that would establish a Covid commission to examine the origins of the virus, the early response to the epidemic, and equity issues in the disease’s impact. Private foundations are also in the process of planning such a commission.

For a commission to be credible, it needs to be broad in both scope and membership. Members can’t have conflicts of interest. If the public perceives the commission is a whitewash, distrust in the scientific community will erode further. A commission must consider four major areas of the U.S. pandemic strategy:

The War on Reality

https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/the-war-on-reality-gutentag

On March 13, 2020, the public school district where I teach announced that all classrooms and buildings would be closed for two weeks. Then two weeks turned into two months, and two months turned into over a full year without in-person instruction. My school serves a diverse population of low-income students in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is impossible to overstate the severity of this disruption caused by school closures for these students, many of whom did not have a computer or internet at home when virtual learning began. Online, my students got only a fraction of the regular curriculum. Kids who had once loved the social aspects of school were left with only the parts of school they hated, and students with disabilities who depended on school for daily living needs were cut off from a vital service.

“Public health” and “the safety of our children” came to mean students Zooming from homeless encampments, experiencing severe abuse, regressing academically, falling into depression, going hungry, struggling through catastrophic learning loss, and, in the saddest cases, not making it through the year alive. Despite consistent evidence that schools were not sites of high transmission for COVID-19, many teachers failed to put aside baseless fears about classroom superspreading and rampant infection. As a result, many of the most vulnerable children in our society suffered outrageous hardships, while their affluent peers attended private schools in person. We’ve all been told that school closures and lockdowns were mandated by science, but what if these mandates were immoral? What if they were based on a series of lies? In fact, what if the entire rationale for most restrictions was actually rotten to the core?

A pandemic of illiberalism

https://franklechner.substack.com/p/a-pandemic-of-illiberalism

It was easy.

That is the main lesson in the Western response to Covid. 

It wasn’t easy to prevent the virus’ transmission or reduce mortality. Since seasonal and geographic variation, the age structure of populations, and the prevalence of risk factors like obesity were dominant drivers of the pandemic, it is still not clear if public policy made much difference at all. In the United States, Covid reached its end as a pandemic thanks to herd immunity and vaccines.

But it was easy to use Covid fears to justify extraordinary steps that enabled governments to exercise unrestrained power and trample basic civil rights.

Covid crisis is receding but economy is hurting. Time to show some guts, Boris, and open up properly

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/15376246/ross-clark-health-crisis-economy/

IF the Government is expecting us to be pathetically grateful for the partial return of our freedoms on July 19, it should beware a lesson from history.

On the same day in 1919, David Lloyd George’s Government planned a Peace Day of marches and, for the great and the good, sumptuous banquets, to celebrate the formal end of the Great War.

Ordinary servicemen, many of whom found themselves unemployed and hungry in spite of heroic service in the trenches, were less than impressed at the sight of dignitaries feasting at their expense.

In several cities riots broke out, while in Luton they burned down the town hall.

Obviously, no one condones rioting.

But there will be justified anger if the present Government similarly mishandles the end of the Covid crisis.

It looks as if 2,500 VIPs and Uefa officials will be allowed into the country for the final of football’s Euros on July 11 without having to isolate for ten days.

Research

A newly identified linear epitope on non-RBD region of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein improves the serological detection rate of COVID-19 patients

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12866-021-02241-y

Abstract

Background

Serological test is helpful in confirming and tracking infectious diseases in large population with the advantage of fast and convenience. Using the specific epitope peptides identified from the whole antigen as the detection antigen is sensitive and relatively economical. The development of epitope peptide-based detection kits for COVID-19 patients requires comprehensive information about epitope peptides. But the data on B cell epitope of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is still limited. More importantly, there is a lack of serological data on the peptides in the population. In this study, we aimed to identify the B cell epitope peptides of spike protein and detect the reactivity in serum samples, for further providing data support for their subsequent serological applications.

Results

Two B cell linear epitopes, P104 and P82, located in non-RBD region of SARS-CoV-2 S protein were identified by indirect ELISA screening of an overlapping peptide library of the S protein with COVID-19 patients’ convalescent serum. And the peptides were verified by testing with 165 serum samples. P104 has not been reported previously; P82 is contained in peptide S21P2 reported before. The positive reaction rates of epitope peptides S14P5 and S21P2, the two non-RBD region epitopes identified by Poh et al., and P82 and P104 were 77.0%, 73.9%, 61.2% and 30.3%, respectively, for 165 convalescent sera, including 30 asymptomatic patients. Although P104 had the lowest positive rate for total patients (30.3%), it exhibited slight advantage for detection of asymptomatic infections (36.7%). Combination of epitopes significantly improved the positive reaction rate. Among all combination patterns, (S14P5 + S21P2 + P104) pattern exhibited the highest positive reaction rate for all patients (92.7%), as well as for asymptomatic infections (86.7%), confirming the feasibility of P104 as supplementary antigen for serological detection. In addition, we analyzed the correlation between epitopes with neutralizing antibody, but only S14P5 had a medium positive correlation with neutralizing antibody titre (rs = 0.510, P < 0.01).

Conclusion

Our research proved that epitopes on non-RBD region are of value in serological detection especially when combination more than one epitope, thus providing serological reaction information about the four epitopes, which has valuable references for their usage.

Charts and Graphics

International News

Hong Kong to ban all flights from UK over Delta variant as Britain classified as ‘extremely high-risk’

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/china-ban-flights-covid-uk-b1873953.html

Hong Kong will ban all flights from the UK from 1 July in order to prevent the spread of the Delta variant to the Chinese city, its government said, as it designated Britain an “extremely high-risk” destination.

In a statement, the Hong Kong government said that people who have stayed in the UK for more than two hours would be restricted from boarding passenger flights for Hong Kong.

The government said this comes “in view of the recent rebound of the epidemic situation in the UK and the widespread Delta variant virus strain there, coupled with a number of cases with L452R mutant virus strains detected by tests from people arriving from the UK.”

The UK was designated a “high-risk place” by Hong Kong at the end of December last year, but restrictions were gradually eased in April and May as the pandemic situation improved.

Abu Dhabi to ban unvaccinated people from most public places

Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates announced Monday that unvaccinated people will soon be banned from shopping centers, restaurants, universities, recreational facilities, and other places as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The city’s government said the far-reaching measure had been approved by the Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee and will take effect on August 20. Children below the age of 16 and those who have an official exemption will not be affected.

“The committee stated [that] the decision would enhance safety in areas that have been subject to additional precautionary measures and provide enhanced protection for community members,” the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office said in a statement.

Israel to reinstate indoor mask mandate next week as COVID-19 cases keep rising

https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-to-reinstate-indoor-mask-mandate-next-week-as-covid-19-cases-keep-rising/

Coronavirus czar Nachman Ash announced Thursday that the indoor mask mandate, obligating people to cover their mouths and noses to prevent infections, will return early next week in an effort to stem the rise in COVID-19 cases.

In a briefing with journalists Thursday evening, Ash said the outbreak had spread to Kfar Saba, Ramla, Herzliya and other cities, as Health Ministry data showed 169 had been diagnosed Thursday by 6 p.m., the highest daily tally in months.

Ash recommended avoiding flights abroad, especially for people who have not been vaccinated.

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