Oz for Dummies: Week 5, 2022
(January 30–February 6) Omicron and how to live with it / That irresponsible pack, the alarmists / Pandemic normality in the land of Oz (and Europe and Asia)
I traveled back to Sydney, via Bangkok (and its eerily empty airport), from Frankfurt, to end my European sojourn of almost two months. Arrived after two ten-hour flights with Thai Airways, and a ten-hour lay-over in Bangkok, Wednesday morning reasonably rested since both flights were at about 20 percent capacity, so there was plenty of room to sleep comfortably. Took a rapid antigen test of German origin at the airport (negative as the one I took within 24 hours of departure on Monday) and off to the office I was … .
I travelled without problem to and fro Europe (no quarantine) and in Europe (traveling to Paris first and then to Prague, via Germany, and then the reverse itinerary, and then to Frankfurt again). It was enjoyable, productive, and liberating to escape the covid madness that is the land of Oz. Nothing like some perspective …
I had with me a copy of my medicare immunization register statement and my yellow “Impfbuch” that documented the three jabs I got last year. These documents got me through, and in, everywhere (cafes, restaurants, etc.) No need, as some people have said (travel writers included), to have the pass sanitaire in France. The key thing was that I could document that I had three shots. If you have only two shots that can spell all kinds of trouble as Tim Dunlop has documented here.
Obviously the situation is in flux and forward going a 4th shot might be required to be considered fully vaccinated; it has already been recommended for some particularly vulnerable groups in Germany. Caveat to that, being fully vaccinated is the key thing (of course also in terms of protection) to traveling freely in much of Europe these days.
/ Omicron and how to live with it
A Swedish study recently reported a test of five different brands of antigen tests currently available for purchase at Swedish pharmacies. The tests were conducted with an average amount of virus (both of the delta and omicron variant) on positive PCR tests. Three out of five antigen tests gave a positive result on the delta variant, but no (!) antigen test gave a positive result on the omicron variant. In other words, there were way too many false negative findings. Shocker.
An important question to ask is whether the standard for approval in Sweden is different than in France and Germany for example, or for that matter in the land of Oz. Apparently (according to a knowledgeable Fb friend — thanks Megan!), in AU all TGA approved tests have to meet a standard of picking up 80% of infections (these are average sensitivity tests) and there are brands that are even more sensitive (90%, and even 95%, detection rate).
A related question is whether they are nasal swabs (which seem the standard in Europe and here) or oral fluid tests? There seem to be some indications that nasal-only swabs are less useful for omicron (and the UK has been recommending that you first swab your throat then your nose).
The TGA requires manufacturers to provide evidence of effectiveness at detecting new variants. This post-market review of antigen ad rapid antigen tests makes for interesting reading. Note that it lists more than 50 assessed RATs and their review status against several variants. To be approved RATs have to detect a minimum of 80% of the cases detected by PCR tests. All of which suggests that we are doing pretty well here in the land of Oz. (If true, that’d pose all kinds of questions about the testing regimes in France, Germany and Sweden.)
Meanwhile evidence keeps accumulating that Omicron is a relatively tame beast — a couple of random tests in Queensland suggest the possibility that 90 percent of cases don’t know that they have it. That the number of infections is a multiple of the reported cases has long been taken for granted but typically reasonably knowledge people assumed a multiplier of 3–5. A multiplier of about 10 would have considerable implications. So good to hear that we can expect to hear about more random tests from the Queensland authorities soon.
/ That irresponsible pack … the alarmists
Meanwhile, the usual alarmists are at it with their usual vengeance. The cake this week goes deservedly to the folks at Global Bio Security, proud member of the OzCage/OzRage bunch of clowns.
These are the same “experts” who failed miserably in many of their predictions, like this recent doozy:
The same Prof Michael S Fuhrer (who you really should follow on twitter for his daily updates on hospitalizations, ICU referrals, etc in the AU states) pointed out in a fascinating thread that excess deaths have until fairly recently been negative, very negative indeed.
/ Pandemic reality in the land of Oz
Numbers of hospitalizations and ICU referrals have fallen for about a week now in much of AU and it seems that we also have hit the peak of those dying with covid. The relevant information is here. (Did I mention that you really should follow Michael on twitter for his daily updates on hospitalizations, ICU referrals, etc in the AU states?)
/ Pandemic reality in Asia
There is evidence that Hongkong’s COVID_zero strategy may be collapsing and that certainly is worth watching given that, apart from China, and Western Australia (where opposition is on the rise and the massive economic consequences become clearer with the day), it seems the only jurisdiction of note that continues to cling on to it.
It will be interesting to see what happens during the Beijing Winter Olympics and in its aftermath. Right now the reports of contenders being forced into quarantine come fast and furious. It makes for many unhappy troupers.
And that’s this week’s wrap-up:
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