The 100-year life 
Health, education, living, public policy

19 February 2021

Vaccinate everyone already
Boris Johnson hoped to lead the charge in calling for the rich world to give its surplus Covid vaccines to developing countries at a G7 zoom call today. But Macron got there first. In fact the French president went one better in an interview with the FT (£) and said it wasn’t enough to wait until we’re all safe in the rich North and then give surpluses away. He says the US and Europe should be giving 5 per cent of their vaccines to developing countries now. Macron’s epidemiological logic is unassailable, but withholding vaccines from your own voters while giving them to others’ is a hard sell. NB: stubborn defenders of Europe’s slow vaccine rollout like to note France and others are ahead of the UK in terms of double doses. Will that make a difference? Israeli data suggests not: it shows one Pfizer dose giving up to 85 per cent protection all by itself.

18 February 2021

A slow Covid win
The UK’s lockdown is working. Infections are down by two thirds in a month according to Imperial College’s React study, but there are two buts: levels are still high overall at nearly 60,000 per million compared with roughly 45,000 and 28,000 in Italy and Germany respectively. And the reduction in UK case numbers since January is largely a result of lockdown and distancing rather than vaccination, whose full effects have yet to kick in. You can see this is a good thing; it means infection, hospitalisation and death numbers will surely go on falling steeply as vaccination numbers go on up. Or you can wonder why it’s all taking so long. High transmissibility of new variants is presumably a factor, but it could be a long time before we really understand this.

17 FEBRUARY 2021

Bhutan’s non-pandemic
Two men who broke lockdown rules to go on a snowbound camping trip to the English Lake District had to be extracted by a mountain rescue team which included a 60-year-old volunteer, Chris Lewis. Lewis slipped and fell 150 metres down a ravine, damaging his spine, and yesterday it emerged he may never walk again. The mountain rescue team – staffed with forty volunteers who respond to around 70 calls for help a year – has so far responded with complete equanimity. “We are there to help,” said one of its members. “We all love the fells, we are all mountaineers, we go out there because we think we can help people in difficulty. Trying to judge is wrong.” A JustGiving page for Lewis has already raised more than £400,000.

16 FEBRUARY 2021

Returning to normal?
The UK is to consider using fast turnaround lateral flow tests to allow some mass events to reopen. Theatres and nightclubs, say, could ask people to take a swab. The hope would be that anyone infectious would have a high enough viral load to be picked up by the test. It is unclear how this might work – but rather than a vaccine passport, you might get a test passport. Before turning up, for example, you might need to have passed a test within a set number of hours before curtain-up.

15 FEBRUARY 2021

Bhutan’s non-pandemic
Bhutan by the numbers: Population – 760,000. Per capita GDP – $3,412. Doctors – 337. Health workers – 3,000. Covid deaths – one. That’s one in total, since the start of the pandemic, and that number is the starting point for a report in the Atlantic on resilience in low-income countries, enhanced in Bhutan – Madeline Drexler argues – by a strong sense of national identity that derives in part from never having been a colony. Vietnam, Rwanda and Senegal are also listed as remarkably resilient, but Bhutan stands out for having kept a lid on the virus despite a long and porous border with India, where Covid has been rampant. The secrets of its success have not been expensive ICUs, but face masks, hygiene, distancing, quarantining and rigorous test and trace – right from the start.