Analysis by Keith Rankin.
The latest excess mortality data shows all the countries of the British Isles, and the United States, have fewer excess deaths than New Zealand in the three months to the end of May 2021. England/Wales was looking particularly good in the three months to June. (Excess mortality data for the United Kingdom is more up-to-date than for most countries.)
In England in particular, Covid19 vaccination is highly advanced, and the unvaccinated young population has high levels of immunity from the disease, due to their substantial contact with it. Currently (ie over the last week), the United Kingdom has the tenth highest reported per capita caseload of Covid19 in the world. (Those with higher rates last week are: the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, Mongolia, Fiji, Cyprus, Namibia, Tunisia, Colombia, and Kuwait.) Yet, when it
`comes to recorded covid deaths, the United Kingdom is ranked well down, at 91st.
Unlike South America, which continues to be the worst affected continent in the world this year, the United Kingdom is riddled with the dreaded ‘delta variant’. South America has barely been touched by this variant. [Refer https://ourworldindata.org/covid-cases, choose ‘Delta variant (share)’ metric.]
Boris Johnson is correct. If the United Kingdom is to abandon its covid restrictions, now is the best possible time. It is mid-summer, and the United Kingdom has achieved herd immunity, mainly through its vaccination programme. Further, the United Kingdom is advantaged by having had robust academic conversations about Covid19; and about its context, which is the global history of respiratory epidemics. In the United Kingdom, the SARS-COV2 virus is now starting to take its place – among the many other viruses with interesting though little-known histories, including other coronaviruses and RSV – as a ‘common cold’ virus.
Boris Johnson’s unbelievable political nous (and gamblers’ courage) – both with respect to Brexit and Covid19 – has made Britain ‘great’ (or at least ‘relevant’) again, while also rendering his domestic political opposition completely ineffective. (Will he be referred to in future histories as ‘Boris the Great’, just as his Viking predecessor of exactly 1,000 years ago is sometimes known as ‘Cnut the Great’? Cnut’s achievement was the unification of England.)
For the United Kingdom, the danger is not over, however. The coming critical issue of political management will be the need for a winter rollout of Covid19 booster vaccinations. The United Kingdom vaccinated early; by the northern autumn, immunity amongst Britain’s older population may be seriously on the wane.
Note 1: New Zealand and Scandinavia
New Zealand was completely correct to go for a cautious approach, a tight quarantine; though I am very concerned that people with soon arrive from Sydney without going through enforced quarantine. Sweden was mistaken to allow the coronavirus to run rampant through Stockholm at a time when there was almost no information about Covid19 as a disease.
Nevertheless, if we look at excess deaths for the year to 6 June 2021 (ie taking weekly averages), the data are as follows:
- New Zealand: 2.40%
- Finland: 2.39%
- Denmark: 2.35%
- Sweden: 2.19%
- Norway: minus 2.49%
All these Scandinavian countries had substantial and multiple Covid19 outbreaks in 2020, so Covid19 infections contributed significantly to their mortality rates over the past year. Yet all had lower excess mortality rates than New Zealand, and that’s from a base where all of these have had many years of higher life expectancy than New Zealand.
Observers in New Zealand may have noticed that New Zealand’s public health establishment – so eager in the most part to attach itself to Saint Jacinda’s coattails – has been markedly absent on the matter of the current RSV epidemic, and on the other (non-covid) reasons for the high rates of hospitalisation, death, and mental trauma among people currently resident in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Note 2: Fiji
For reported cases of Covid19, our associate nation, Fiji, is 4th in the world for reported cases (2nd if we exclude countries with fewer than 100,000 people); and it’s 20th in the current rankings for recorded deaths. It’s always easy for the chattering classes to blame another country’s political establishment for an epidemic, without understanding that a poor country like Fiji has fewer degrees of political freedom; unlike Aotearoa so far, Fiji’s politicians cannot effectively command the epidemic to go away. But Fiji’s authorities are doing their best to roll out Covid19 vaccines; and I believe that Fiji will get over this – more successfully than, say, South America (where, as in Argentina, there were many lockdowns but little effective quarantine) – and that vaccination will prove to have been the key to such future success.