Friday, July 08, 2022

Peaks and Troughs

My reading of this new research is that we are doomed to a pattern of recurring covid waves because our current preventative behaviours — strict during the peaks and then lax during the troughs — is in effect part of the impetus behind the pattern.

This might seem counter-intuitive, but we have to be at our most vigilant and regulation-heavy when the pandemic appears to be idling.

The pandemic is definitely no longer idling here in Guatemala as the BA.5 variant breezes through a population that had only recently relaxed its guard. 

There seems to be no clear consensus as to how pathogenic these new sepas are likely to be. They are clearly no respecters of vaccination or even fairly recent infection with earlier versions of Omicron. Vaccination levels in Guatemala are lower than in the developed world, so any sort of compound immunity in the population will be less pronounced. 

There was a fairly recent research report suggested that Omicron does not in fact produce less severe disease than Alpha or Delta, it only appears to do so because of the growing prevalence of antibodies, but even in countries like the US and the UK, take-up of jab number 4 has been lowish, leading to a possible waning of overall protection. 

My own (anecdotal) experience is that these latest airborne nasties are liable to cause really quite serious disease in individuals that have been triple or quadruple-vaxed, even those with recent prior brushes with Omicron, yet are less likely to result in fatal outcomes. 

Before we celebrate, the symptoms brought by each new variant appear to be worsening again. Around one in ten people are likely to end up with chronic issues lasting a long time, both physical and cognitive. 

The gap between infections is narrowing and it is now being reported that those that are infected on multiple occasions are more likely to experience longer-term health issues. 

Covid can damage the lungs, heart, brain, liver and kidneys and any infection is said to increase the risk of heart attack (by 72%), stroke (by 52%) and diabetes (by 40%). 

Let's face it, Guatemala is a nation relatively resigned to cases of premature death. Yet what must be most troubling the authorities here now is the prospect of debilitated thousands in the workforce requiring long-term treatment and/or management of complaints which could then feature as co-morbidities in any future waves.

And this in a country where underlying chronic conditions like hypertension is already poorly managed.

Even though the collective will almost everywhere for lockdowns and curfews appears to have evaporated, some sort of severe economic impact, nationally and globally is almost unavoidable.

Developed world governments may have over-responded in 2020 to the initial economic challenges and are now comparatively indebted and moving in the opposite direction to fiscal easing. The assumption that inflation was largely a temporary glitch generated by a surge in "post-pandemic" demand has ceded to the realisation that supply-side disruptions could be around for far longer than anticipated, potentially leading to stagflation. 

"Team zero covid", China in particular, seem set for a very difficult twelve months or so and that will exacerbate existing supply chain snafus.

The war in Ukraine shows little sign of abating any time soon.

With our defences now appearing redundant and BA.2.75 aka 'Centaurus' on its way, we can expect covid to render many workspaces temporarily inert, with governments regulating in a patchier fashion to control the numbers gathering in indoor environments. 

Arch pessimist Nouriel Roubini believes central banks will "wimp out' of their determination to control inflation with rate rises as evidence of a slowdown emerges, adding that...

The next crisis will not be like its predecessors. In the 1970s, we had stagflation but no massive debt crises, because debt levels were low. After 2008, we had a debt crisis followed by low inflation or deflation, because the credit crunch had generated a negative demand shock.

Today, we face supply shocks in a context of much higher debt levels, implying that we are heading for a combination of 1970s-style stagflation and 2008-style debt crises—that is, a stagflationary debt crisis







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