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British exceptionalism November 24, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Anyone see this in the Guardian? A report on how:

As Covid infection rates surged again across Europe, Boris Johnson spoke this week of “storm clouds gathering” over parts of the continent and said it was unclear when or how badly the latest wave would “wash up on our shores”.

The situation in some EU member states, particularly those with low vaccination rates, is indeed dramatic. In central and eastern Europe in particular, but also Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands, case numbers are rocketing.

But as the Guardian notes:

missing from the prime minister’s remarks, and from much of the media coverage of them, was the fact that Britain’s rolling seven-day average of daily new coronavirus cases is still higher than the average of the EU27, and has been since June.

According to figures from OurWorldInData, the EU’s average has quadrupled in recent weeks, from just over 110 daily new cases per million people on 1 October to 446 on Thursday.

The UK began that same period with a daily infection rate of 505 per million people, nearly five times the EU27 average. After peaking at nearly 700 in late October the rate fell to 495 on 10 November, but for the past week it has been climbing sharply again.

This sort of blinkered view is indicative of an administration that now appears to frame so much in effective opposition to Europe – albeit in a rather distorted fashion. It is, of course, expedient for a PM under pressure from Tory corruption controversies to do this, but it has really become a tool of government and one has to wonder even after the Tories, presumably, at some point are ejected from office whether it will remain so? But Jonathan Freedland notes that fundamentally there’s a deeper and even more pernicious dynamic at work, that is that there is now a basic dishonesty in all areas of the Tory government, and a dishonesty that is deployed entirely for political gain. He writes:

dishonesty is no longer merely the character flaw of one man. It has become the imprint of his party and this government.

Admittedly, the Conservatives’ collective dishonesty is less florid than Johnson’s individual variety. If you were being kind, you would call it intellectual dishonesty or, kinder still, magical thinking. Sometimes it takes the form of arguing two contradictory things at once; often it comes down to saying one thing and doing the exact opposite.

The list of examples that Freedland offers is lengthy and compelling. Of course one can say that all governments of whatever stripe will be dishonest, and that is true to an extent. But it is the blatant aspect of this government (perhaps inflected by the Trump and Republican experience – though that’s not the happiest of examples) that sets it apart from its predecessors. That said, rather like the pandemic, and as with Brexit, the problem is that dishonesty only takes you so far. Squaring the circle between backing away from previously made agreements and attracting others to make agreements with you is not easy to do (most interesting Brexit Republic podcast recently where it noted the pressure the UK government was under from Washington on foot of Irish and EU entreaties over the NI Protocol – what was striking was how the UK government hadn’t seemed to predict that line of pressure, though it surely was entirely predictable).

As to where countries broadly stand, here’s a telling snippet:

Other EU members including Ireland, Hungary, Greece and the Baltic states also have infection rates higher than the UK’s. But several – mainly those with high vaccination rates and relatively strict social distancing rules – do not.

They include France on 201 daily infections per million, Italy on 138 and Spain on 95, as well as Portugal, Finland and Sweden. Infection rates in Romania and Bulgaria, previously the EU’s worst-affected countries, are now also much lower.

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1. Liberius - November 24, 2021

On the subject of exceptionalism, this from Pascal Soriot:

Pascal Soriot told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that differences in T-cell immunity between the vaccines might mean that those who received the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab had longer-lasting immune protection against the virus. T- cells are a class of immune cells that educate antibody-producing B cells about the nature of the viral threat and directly kill infected cells.

Soriot said: “It’s really interesting when you look at the UK. There was a big peak of infections but not so many hospitalisations relative to Europe. In the UK [the Oxford/AstraZeneca] vaccine was used to vaccinate older people whereas in Europe people thought initially the vaccine doesn’t work in older people.

I’m not one for showering the Guardian in praise but I’d give fair dues to their science correspondent for seeking out scientific voices rather than just agreeing sagely with Soriot’s bit of marketeering and playing up to UK jingoism.

Danny Altmann, a professor of immunology at Imperial College London, said it would be “foolhardy” to try to attribute the differences in the shape of individual countries’ infection curves to any single factor. “I don’t know where you’d start to do that scientifically,” he said. “All of the vaccines are, to varying degrees, pretty amazing. They all induce the full gamut of immunity, including neutralising antibodies and [different types of] T-cells.”

Prof Matthew Snape, of the University of Oxford, has compared antibody and T-cell responses in people receiving standard or mixed schedules of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines. Although his team found evidence that a single dose of AstraZeneca induced a better T-cell response, the response was very similar shortly after receiving two doses. “Intriguingly, the best T-cell responses seem to come if you give a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine followed by Pfizer,” he said…

…“Drawing comparisons between countries presents many difficulties and is very likely to lead to conclusions which are not reliable,” said Dr Lance Turtle, a senior clinical lecturer and consultant physician in infectious diseases at the University of Liverpool…

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/23/astrazeneca-chief-links-europes-covid-surge-to-rejection-of-firms-vaccine

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - November 24, 2021

+1 That’s a great find Liberius. Thanks a million. In a way it’s also indicative of a doubling down on vaccines. I’ve a few friends who were over there in the last two weeks or so and were amazed by the sheer lack of mask-wearing or basic precautions in shops and other similar areas (this was London).

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