BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS

ZERO COVID

February 18, 2021 Dana Lewis Season 3 Episode 11
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
ZERO COVID
Chapters
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
ZERO COVID
Feb 18, 2021 Season 3 Episode 11
Dana Lewis

Experts warn in Europe and America there is not enough discussion of zero covid and there should be, which means an aim for elimination instead of this yo yo approach to suppression, that translates into more and more disruptions and lockdowns. 

And, schools need to be reopened carefully, with mitigation, because kids are getting and transmitting covid more than you know, 

On this Back Story Dana Lewis talks to Deepti Gurdasani, a senior lecturer on epidemiology and statistical genetics at Queen Mary Univ. of London. 

And Dr. Eric Feigal-Ding a Washington epidemiologist and one of the early whistle blowers on the pandemic spread from China.


Show Notes Transcript

Experts warn in Europe and America there is not enough discussion of zero covid and there should be, which means an aim for elimination instead of this yo yo approach to suppression, that translates into more and more disruptions and lockdowns. 

And, schools need to be reopened carefully, with mitigation, because kids are getting and transmitting covid more than you know, 

On this Back Story Dana Lewis talks to Deepti Gurdasani, a senior lecturer on epidemiology and statistical genetics at Queen Mary Univ. of London. 

And Dr. Eric Feigal-Ding a Washington epidemiologist and one of the early whistle blowers on the pandemic spread from China.


Speaker 1:

By the end of July, we'll have over 600 million doses enough to vaccinate every single American by next Christmas. I think we'll be in a very different circumstance. God willing than we are today.

Speaker 2:

Yeah , we must be both optimistic, but also patient about the root to normality. Uh , and , uh , even though some things are very uncertain because we want this lockdown to be the last

Speaker 3:

Hi everyone, and welcome to backstory. I'm Dana Lewis, political leaders from British prime minister, Boris Johnson to American president, Joe Biden are talking about vaccines and discussing how to reopen schools and businesses because of people now wearing masks more and keeping their social distancing and the lockdowns in Europe rates of COVID hospitalization and deaths are for the moment falling great news, but a huge number of scientists say, you can't talk school openings without changing classroom sizes. The way air is circulated mandatory masks for kids. And remember this is an aerosol or air borne virus. And before you think vaccines will be our road back to normal, think again, the mutations in the COVID-19 pandemic are in the thousands in increasing infrequency and spread and becoming more deadly. The vaccines can not be tweaked fast enough. And if we reopen society too quickly, we will keep having to return to lockdowns . So why aren't we talking about zero COVID before we reopened on this backstory to expert epidemiologist, Dr. Eric Feigel ding with the COVID action group in Washington and here in London, Deepti good . The sunny from the queen Mary university, both outspoken and worth listening to, especially if you're a parent,

Speaker 1:

Right .

Speaker 2:

[inaudible] is a senior lecturer on epidemiology and statistics genetics at queen Mary university of London. Hi BP . Hi, thanks for doing this. You know, I am struck by reading a lot of science , um, and following people like you, and then watching these government news conferences, for instance, in the United Kingdom where the prime minister and his scientists, because they say they're following the science, never talk about zero COVID. Why is there this deep chasm of disconnect in Europe when the discussion never even approaches zero COVID? Yes. I mean, I actually don't fully understand why that is in the UK. It's broadly been taught to be impossible

Speaker 4:

Or unachievable by many members of our scientific advisory group. Who've said this publicly , um, and unfortunately discussions around zero COVID never entered the mainstream despite well, zero COVID being highly successful in many regions. It was , um, sort of dismissed very early on as first when it was done in Southeast Asia as being culturally, not in line with what could be achieved in the UK and Europe, because we are freedom loving people. And when it was in New Zealand, Australia, which, you know, are more thought to be more culturally similar , uh, it was again dismissed as Oh, but Europe and the UK are more interconnected. Uh , they have high population density. So there are several regions to suggest reasons always to suggest that Europe or the UK are exceptional in some way to make this impossible more and more. Now we are hearing that New Zealand Australia managed to get on top of this because they acted early on. And since we haven't acted on cannot get on top of it

Speaker 2:

Acted early on, and then life went back to normal, largely because there wasn't there wasn't, COVID spreading rapidly. I mean, it was very few cases of it. Now they've had another outbreak between New Zealand and Australia. They're being very aggressive about the lockdown. They want to eliminate it , uh, with good track and trace systems. And then once they do that, they'll reopen again. And I , I was reading , um, one of the virologists at Northumbria university this morning saying that, you know, the Asia Pacific nations first contain the transmission, then they unlock their economies. They attempt to return to business as usual , uh, was a bit of firefighting, which will still end up burning your house down. In other words, if you just, you know , spray a little bit of containment on this, but let it burn, it will burn the house down.

Speaker 4:

I think that's an excellent analogy. And we followed sort of almost a policy of halfway measures in the interest we thought of sort of protecting the economy, protecting people's jobs , uh, allowing education in schools, protecting our health services without realizing that all of these things are unfortunately completely tied in with controlling COVID. And unless you get on top of COVID, you can't protect your economy, you can't protect your health services and you can't provide undisrupted education for children. Um, and you know, I think the countries who understood that early on treated COVID as a threat, that it was rather than minimizing it and took aggressive action are the ones who went out and countries who minimize the risk posed by this competitive flu follow the policy of halfway measures, talking about suppression, flattening the curve, maintaining hospitalizations just below capacity. Well, that never worked because we've been in restrictions now for the longest time in the UK, we're now in our third lockdown and all of this as a result of paradoxically , trying to protect the economy and people's liberties, right ? We've extended this

Speaker 2:

Revolving door of lockdowns. And now they're saying this is likely the last locked down . The newspapers are full of headlines today. Talking about prime minister, Boris Johnson's plans to reopen the economy in the next few months. Do you think that they're dreaming?

Speaker 4:

I mean, I think socially with that rhetoric, they are dreaming. I mean, if you're talking about reopening now and talking about , uh, acceptable, that's living with the virus, then I think in the same breath, you can't be talking about this being the last lockdown, because essentially we've been here many times before, and it's very predictable. What happens from here? This is not rocket science. We know that if you start opening up early, you see sodas in cases, you see that all over Europe. Uh, and unfortunately after three lockdowns , to me, it's quite astonishing that the government still hasn't learned from this. And we're still applying to go ahead, open up , uh , against the advice, actually, even from the scientific advisory group at this point in time, for example, yesterday, it was a paper out in the London school of hygiene that clearly shows that almost in all scenarios, opening schools up, whether it's primary or secondary schools or both in the UK, we need to. So it is in cases are about one an exponential rises resuming, which obviously would mean very soon another lockdown, school closures and all the devastating impacts of that.

Speaker 2:

Well, there's a lot of debate in that conversation though. Isn't there because the , the science as quoted by the government at least seems to be that this spread is pretty minimal. Um, in certain age groups of children, I mean, I've got a 13 year old who's at home and in a 16 year old. So it's very different between the two of them and the bubbles in their schools and whether they wear masks or not. But, and as you know, they're at home right now. Um, but you're, you're interesting because I looked at one of your tweets and you said more misinformation on the BBC, on schools. No mention of databased on regular testing of asymptomatic children in households, which shows the opposite. When will the media get this right? So you're saying that the statistics on the, on minimizing the spread by children, between children and back into their households is misleading because it doesn't take into account asymptomatic cases and they are the majority of the cases.

Speaker 4:

Yes. I mean , exactly. So it's not just that it underestimates cases and children. Um , the problem is when you only test symptomatic people, children are less likely to be represented. And often you're more likely to pick up the adults that they infect. So not only are you underestimating infection, children, you're miss identifying very likely an adult as an index case or as a source of infection. Whereas it's very likely to have been the child from the school. And there's a lot of evidence now to support this from many studies that have now looked at it, more asymptomatic transmission based on regular testing and , um, the community and in schools. So for example, if you look at the office for national statistics data, if you just look at the trends of , um , infection rates in children or infection positivity in children over time in the UK, you will see that infection rates in primary and secondary schools, children were some of the highest at the end of October and November and closely reflected school openings and closure. So we have a half-term that happens in October during which, you know, both of those sort of declined and then came up again. And it's hard to explain why the prevalence of infection would be the highest in those age groups. If it's just a reflection of , uh, you know, infections , the community, and to provide even more robust evidence for this, the office for national statistics is actually done household surveys of people who were , uh , detected to have infection based on random sampling of the population. So this is not a biased sampling as dependent on children having symptoms.

Speaker 2:

What's the answer? What is the answer? Because if you've got to go back to school, right?

Speaker 4:

Oh yes, they do actually have to go back to school, but I think they have to go back to school in a way that we can maintain our below one. So transmission remains low within schools and from schools back to the community. I mean the current mitigation measures in the UK are very focused on things like for my transmission and hygiene, which is actually not the major mode of transmission of a Sr Scobey two . And there's very little attention given to aerosol transmission. There is early evidence from many parts of the world to suggest that mitigating measures in schools can, would use transmission and the impact of school openings. Um, and our measures are completely out of line with, for example, the CDC guidance and what many countries in Europe have adopted. So for example, we don't have in England mask wearing within classrooms, either in secondary or primary schools, we don't have any social distancing. We have essentially open windows as attention to ventilation, but no further than there's no monitoring of ventilation. And the class sizes in the UK are some of the largest in Europe. We have no cap on bubble sizes. So many schools have bubbles that are up to several hundred students, so up to 300 children and all of those things contribute to transmission. And I think, yes, it's very important that children have a level of, you know , face-to-face or in-person learning in schools because that's very important for children's wellbeing , but we need to have safety measures in place. And we also need to have options for parents who are clinically wonderful, or whose children are vulnerable, who may not want to send their children for in-person teaching. So we need to have that sort of option for parents. And we also need to have mitigation measures in place.

Speaker 2:

Is there, I mean, I work in the media, right ? So , um, I , I find it hard to believe that there's media bias. Um, but you clearly think there is because you were invited on the BBC program, which tends to give the government, I think probably a pretty easy pass on some of these things. Um, and when you said that you want to talk about zero COVID, they kind of withdrew the invitation. I mean, why is there not a more robust discussion? Um, and again, that we kind of go back to where I started the interview with you. Why is there not a more robust discussion on , on, I don't want to call it state media, but it is state funded media, but why , you know , why do they not really call out the government and say, I mean, what the hell the UK is an Island? Why didn't they shut it down? They allowed tens and tens of thousands of people to arrive through the airports day by day, through the summer, through the full, through even Christmas, when they had the new variants , starting only now have they , they, you know, shut down a lot of the air traffic. They still, I think have 20,000 people arriving a day. And you know, they're saying that they're going to put people from so-called red zone countries like South Africa in hotel quarantine for 10 days, we're a year into this. I mean, it , it just seems like

Speaker 4:

Those policies don't even go far enough. Even their own scientific advisory group has said that those policies are not going to prevent the input of new variants or infections into the country because they need to be far more comprehensive. So yeah, those policies seem to be more of a PR exercise than anything that's actually going to contribute to reducing your variants coming into the County .

Speaker 2:

Right . What's the, I don't understand the PR exercise. I mean, is it just to make the government make it look like they're taking action when they really reluctantly don't want to take any action at all? Because why like , what do they win at the end of this? If they don't shut it down?

Speaker 4:

I actually think that it's, it's a real lack of understanding that these short, this sort of short-term , um , the short-term , uh , prioritization of the economy, I think that's what's happening. They don't want to restrict, for example, travel restrictions from all over the world and have managed quarantine from all over the world because of, you know , the potential impact of the economy. But I think there's a complete lack of understanding that this is actually short-term thinking if you input a new variant, that for example, puts vaccine effectiveness at risks and vaccines are the major part of your pandemic strategy. Um, and you've invested billions in those vaccines, then actually that's false economy. And that's something that I think the government has never really understood this still a lot of pressure from within the government to open up, to balance everything with the economy. And I think that's, what's literally killing us and killing the economy , um, because if they took a slightly longer term view, we could actually protect the economy much better by following an elimination strategy and preventing sort of new variants coming in that would actually potentially devastate our society and economy.

Speaker 2:

I want to ask you about the new variants. Do you think, you know, the government keeps saying, they're, they're , they're vaccinating. They're going to have everybody vaccinated by the autumn. Then they're going to out maybe some new vaccines too , that will be massaged to deal with these new variants that are coming. I mean, it seems like we're in a race with the new variants and they , and the government doesn't , um, you know, believes the promises from the drug manufacturing companies that, yeah, no problem. We'll go back in the lab and , and we'll deal with this. Do you believe it's that easy?

Speaker 4:

So I don't think it's as straightforward as it's made out to be. I think there's a huge amount of uncertainty. So I think one thing is why chemically manufacturing a new MRI , new vaccine might be relatively straightforward , uh, you know, testing it, validating it, getting it, you know, positive regulatory approvals , uh, you know, showing that proof of immunity, safety, et cetera, will take time. And , um, the problem right now is that with the level of transmission that we have and the sort of poor border restrictions we have, we are identifying one new variant in the UK every week. I think at last count, there are at least four new variants of concern that are circulating within the UK, including many whose properties we don't actually fully understand and why we might be trying , uh , making these vaccines now that you know, will be validated and tested over a period of time. Um, there's no guarantees that they're going to be effective against the strains that are out then whose properties we might understand much later and the importance of which you might understand much later. So as you say, it's between a race between vaccination and , uh, evolution. And we need to remember one thing, a lot of these variants have evolved against a background where the majority of the population wasn't immune to the virus as more and more of the population becomes immune to the virus with higher levels of vaccination. We should expect more adaptation because that's just what happens with viruses. Okay .

Speaker 2:

And when you would expect less, because there would be less circulation for longer in a, in a host, that's not correct.

Speaker 4:

So there's , um, it's actually , um, the level of transmission that makes a difference. So yes, if vaccines rapidly bring down transmission, and if transmission is low, they will reduce the risk of ours adaptation. But that's not really what happens with vaccines, because for example, now we've vaccinated 20% of the population, which doesn't have a major impact on art and isn't having a major impact in our, and that's entirely expected. So if transmission is allowed to continue, side-by-side with vaccination, then as you see higher levels of evolution, because you have people who are , um, I , I guess, immune to a particular variant of virus , uh , so variants that escape are more likely to become dominant. So for example, you know, we have variants such as , uh, which carry mutations like the ones in the South Africa, variant that we are really concerned about in terms of efficacy. And we're hearing from , uh , you know, senior advisors to the government that these are not concerning because they're not likely to become dominant. But the problem is that when you create a different environment for viruses, with high levels of selection, pressure, it's very likely that these veins become dominant because vaccines just don't have the same impact on them. And more variants evolve that vaccines don't have the same level of impact on. So it's very likely that we will see more and more adaptation and possibly even at a higher rate than we're seeing now, if transmission remains high and that's a very important caveat. And one of the important reasons that many of us think it's very important to suppress transmission during vaccine rollout, because the only way to actually prevent adaptation is to eliminate the virus and really suppress transmission. There's no other way that we can control adaptation of the riders that prevent this happening. And the consequences of this are really uncertain. We cannot predict what's going to happen. So it's very important to actually reduce that uncertainty by driving towards elimination.

Speaker 1:

Is this the last lockdown?

Speaker 4:

I really hope so, but the rhetoric from government doesn't give me a lot of hope. I really hope that the government changes its strategy in line with evidence and policy. And I think if they take a long-term strategy to this and really hold up just a little bit longer before easing restrictions fix it, as soon as I say, symptoms, that when cases come down, we can keep them down and have much better quality at borders so we can prevent important cases once they come down. I think if they put those three measures in place, we can potentially have this as a last lockdown, but I think it entirely depends on what the government is going to do at this point,

Speaker 1:

Deep degree, the Sonny , it's great to talk to you and thank you so much for all of the , this , you know, the science look at this, and obviously we should be following the science more than more than the business and the politics of it. So thank you so much.

Speaker 4:

Well, thanks for having me.

Speaker 5:

[inaudible]

Speaker 1:

I get to Washington now and Dr. Eric Feigel ding , uh , is a well known epidemiologist and a health economist. And , uh, you know, Eric, I didn't realize, cause I've talked to you before that you were one of the very first people who really rang the alarm bells back in January, when you realized what kind of scientific results we you're starting to see from China, and that you were very worried and you, you must be at this point a year into this incredibly frustrated about how bad we've been in the West and dealing with this. Yeah, it's been a very, very long year , um, now, Oh, well, over a year and we're still at this, we're still fighting this information. We still fighting people trying to downplay it. And by people I don't just mean , um, in political spectrum. I also mean a lot of, even some, you know, scientists who long dismissed at the beginning. There's no as asymptomatic transmission, come on. That's crazy. There's asymptomatic transmission. There's, there's no reinfection . That's not possible then within a year. So now we clearly know with the bearings , you can have reinfection or there's no, you know, air , it's not that airborne, just six feet, just keep your six feet. And you're good. But clearly we know that this is an aerosol airport environment . So it's been fighting against, you know, many, many denialism and downplaying aneurysm here . And here we are, you have the COVID action group, which is,

Speaker 6:

That's a group of how many scientists

Speaker 1:

Then , Oh, like a dozen or two scientists. Um, but we are trying to drive advocacy and covert action group where we're a little more US-focused . But yeah , it's kind of like the independence age , uh , that the UK has in which

Speaker 6:

Scientists who provide,

Speaker 1:

Which is also a government wise . Yeah. It's, you know, in certain ways like government scientists say the most, you know, conservative or the most absolute thing that they're sure about, but there are things, especially in this world where we're concerned on many fronts about the pandemic, which not all the evidence is in, but there is a precautionary principle. And then in certain ways I lean towards, you know , one side you could be wrong and there's no real bad outcome if you're wrong, but on the other side, you could be right. And if you are right, even if it's a smaller chance, it could have really, really deadly or large pandemic impacts. Give me a practical example. Well, I think like asymptomatic transmission people said, well, we're not sure we can't for certain know there's metric . We don't have enough data to, for sure know that that's true. And

Speaker 6:

In the end it turned out that most people turned

Speaker 1:

Out, you know , 30, 40, 50% of all transmissions and done by asymptomatic presymptomatic people. And, you know, it had, but if we took the precaution, let's just assume it's true. We could have stopped the pandemic way, way earlier or mitigated way, way more. And same with aerosol. People said, well, you know, six feet is enough. You don't have evidence that is air board and flowing through the whole world. And, you know, traveling, even when someone leaves the room, someone else enters in, there's no one it's not because the droplets fall to the ground. How do we take the precaution that it is airborne because it's a respiratory virus and like many other respiratory viruses, these aerosols float in the air for a long time, we would have protected people a lot better. If we had put in the guidelines from the beginning.

Speaker 6:

I mean the world health organization was one of those organizations that didn't take aerosol. I wouldn't say they didn't take it seriously, but they were very late. And there was that letter that went out, I think probably late summer from a , a number of scientists, et cetera .

Speaker 1:

Right. This is airborne.

Speaker 6:

Just, didn't quite latch onto it for weeks and weeks.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And you know, Stacia's who was also CDC , there's many other virologist scientists. Um, in certain ways, you know, aerosol science, is it environmental science? It's actually from the science of air pollution , uh , particular matter. And they've studied aerosols and as well as viruses in these aerosols, traveling aerosols for a long, long time, well virologists, you're more molecular biologists and geneticists of viruses. So in certain ways, you know, they, this pandemic expertise is not defined to any single small domain . We need sociologists , uh, and public health communicators to help people understand about vaccines. We need , uh , aerosol scientists and these engineers to design better air cleaning systems and understand the air ventilation dynamics. Because when the thing we know environmental health, the solution to pollution is dilution and mental Alation . Is that dilution .

Speaker 6:

Yeah. I care about I'm sending my , I'm sending my kids back to school. They're in the UK. They're probably going to go back on March the eighth. I was talking to my , my 16 year old, 16 year old today. And he said, yeah, you know, originally when we went back just before Christmas , I mean, in September, all the windows were open and then they kind of, you know, started closing the windows cause it was too Chile . And then kind of, they closed all the windows and we were wearing masks, but then we weren't. And so the , you know, it started off, well probably in London schools and then, you know, just deteriorated because everybody got a false sense of security somehow.

Speaker 1:

No . Uh , and I think this false sense of security is oftentimes fomented by people who say, well, we don't know if there's truly risks. The risks are not actually there. Whenever what they actually mean is what we don't know for sure there could be risk , but they're not proven. And how do we take the precautionary side? What if, what if you're wrong? It's not airborne. You know what, no one's hurt by opening the windows. Uh , and that it turned out it's not airborne , but you could actually save and predict , prevent the pandemic so much more, you know, by taking this precaution and leaning towards precaution and who, you know, some, there are advocates who are much more let's you say, progressively or for great acknowledgement of these risks. And I think Dr. Mike, Ryan has WHR she , um, he's actually Irish. And he said, you know, if you cannot wait, if you try to wait until you're absolutely sure about something you will lose against the pandemic, you know, perfection is the enemy of good during the pandemic response. And I think that is just so correct. And you know, that's has been my philosophy from the beginning, knew that this was infectious. And we knew that this had pandemic potential and people needed to repair , but we were talking about, it's just the flu in mass media all the way until March. And now we're still talking about, Oh, schools are safe whenever clearly there's so many evidence there , schools cannot just be Willy nilly safe. You can't have sweet little lies to yourselves that they're safe . You have to take precautions to make them safe and precautions.

Speaker 6:

And what do you say to a mother, a father, a mother or father listening to this, and they want to send their kids back to school because they've got to get back to school and they've got to, they have to get back to a social environment. They've got to get back to learning, but you know, we care about our kids' health. So what do you say to w I'm conformed to say this for a living in interviewing experts about

Speaker 1:

COVID-19 ? Yeah, so , uh , first of all , uh , you know, I have a kid he's seven he's rambunctious. He needs school. What I want to emphasize to people is I'm not against opening schools. There are radicals who are against opening schools and radicals for opening schools and ignoring all the risks and science , um, for safe, reopening and St . The opening means taking not just the precautions of mandatory masks, where some places it's not mandatory and that's very scary, wear them all day long in the classroom. Yeah, you should. You should. And also we should implement testing , uh , weekly, at least four teachers and preferably kids, if they can handle it. But you know, many other schools, there are schools in some countries that are doing mandatory testing, you know, once or twice a week for all students as well. So I think you should have testing weekly. And I think you have to make sure that, you know, some of the CDC guidelines here in the USA, Oh, you know, just maintain six feet and then you can have indoor sports, no unique . You can't just say that is enough. You have to emphasize ventilation six feet is not enough. And you can't do six feet, for example, for wrestling, right? You can't do 60 for those. And you can try to think, well , six feet in basketball, but you know, that's not how the sport is run. You have to be honest with ourselves. And unless you put in the ventilation systems, the air cleaning systems by air cleaning. I mean, if a room has poor ventilation, you either put in a HEPA filter or for lawyers' gymnasiums, you put it upper air UV where you'd be lights shining on towards the ceiling, not down. And then you circulate the air up and down. That's upper air UV . It's actually a very efficient system. Um, or there's even if for a school that has absolutely no money whatsoever for any of these, there's something called for example, a core seat box. And of course the box is take these air filters, these , um, you know , uh , 20 inch by 20 inch air filters that you put in your homes and you take a box fan and you simply create a cube out of this with the box stamping side and take a one, two, three, four, five additional of these , um, uh, filters. And you can create this, a HEPA filter equivalent box that can disinfect and remove viruses. Assuming you use the right filters. And it's been shown, it's been actually shown by aerosol scientists. This is actually quite efficient system cost nothing more than a box and a few filters

Speaker 2:

As we speak the British newspaper . It's cause you know, we've been under a lockdown since before Christmas. I mean, and I hate to use the term lockdown because while I've been at home and my kids have been at home, there's lots of construction workers that get on the tube every day and get on buses and go to work. And so so-called essential workers that are doing house renovations. You know, I , I don't think that's essential, but anyway, the lockdown, depending on where you are, but the numbers are falling now, but we're still above 10,000 , uh , cases estimated per day. And now the big talk here is how to reopen everything. Do you , do you think that they're there being dangerously , um, soft in terms of the pressure is from business groups that want to get their pubs in there , their shops in their restaurants opening and that they shouldn't, they shouldn't open too soon.

Speaker 1:

Yeah . Um, I I'm in the zero COVID belief that it's better if we not have these yo-yoing up and down, rollercoasters are opening and closing and opening and closing because we've seen time and time again, it is not the right idea. And we've seen, you know, we kept , you know, the little analogy is if you eat bacon a lot and you have high cholesterol and you switch to eating vegetarian or vegan for a month, it's not like once you switch back to bacon, again, that the bacon doesn't harm you it's , we know that people spread right.

Speaker 2:

Also just to interrupt you. I also like this analogy that somebody wrote that said, you've opened your parachute on the way down and you've decreased the velocity of the fall. So it's okay to take your parachute off.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, of course we are on a downhill roll towards the natural velocity of this virus is just spread . What we need to do is truly, truly eliminate the virus so that it cannot keep pushing us down the Hill. And, and I know it's an uphill fight, but you know, it is possible zero . We are, you know, UK right now is approximately 0.8. The cases are dropping in a lockdown. And if we just resist longer, we can get it to zero. And once you're at near zero, where we can trace, you know, small outbreaks, very vigilantly and the , the , of a cropping up is so, so much lower. And UK is an Island

Speaker 2:

And that's , and new Zealand's done it. And Australia is done .

Speaker 1:

You know, many other important places that are not Vietnam is a very densely populated place. It's not an Island. It's not wealthy in any way, but they took the zero COVID approach. It's possible just it's the , when you're so close, don't give up because once you give up, it will allow the virus to spread again. But if you just get it down to zero, there is, you know , zero times 50,000 hundred thousand millions of people moving around means zero because you're at a zero

Speaker 2:

A little bit longer . That's not even being talked about in the U S isn't it

Speaker 1:

In the U S we have political issues that are obviously a lot more difficult to , you know , for example, masks , mandate, school closings, all these kinds of things are , you know, Joe Biden cannot mandate every single state to follow his rules. He can do it for, you know, federal, public transits kind of things, and federal buildings, but you can't mandate it on the local level, but UK has this, you know, hopefully more efficient or at least England, it can be more efficient and mandated. Uh , and this is in certain ways, you know, better central control is, has that advantage in governance, but you guys can do it. I know you guys can't and because you guys are relatively wealthy of an Island, it's , um, you know, has the resources to do that. It has the testing, you know, you guys found to be one 17 when I'm sure you sure there's many other strains, but it's just, you guys found it fast because you guys had the genomics of surveillance and the technical expertise UK has all the combinations in those how to manufacture vaccines, design vaccines, do genomic surveillance, do all these other testing and has the advantage of being wealthy and an Island. So if, if anybody should be able to do it, UK should be able to do,

Speaker 2:

But they won't because, although they're talking about this being the last lockdown, so listen, you've mentioned mutations, and then you tweeted something. I think in the last few days that there's something going on with this mutation seven striking new converging variance with the same six, seven patients . What is that?

Speaker 1:

That's in the U S M D U S. They found some , several variants that all share the same mutation in the variants . There's other mutations too, but they all have this one in common. And it's just very striking how it's something called convergent evolution, where once you, if something's advantageous , uh , many others , uh , will also learn the same skill. And this is why owls and bats both learn to fly, even though owls and bats are not anywhere near the same evolutionary tree, but they all converged on a evolutionary adaptive adaptation. So the virus has also adapted and the U K B one 17 also has advantageously adapted. Uh , you know, there's the five Oh one Nelly , um, a mutation that many others also have and is also acquired that [inaudible] 4k in the , in the sub lineage in Wales and England , uh , that allows it to bade , um, antibodies, just like South Africa and Brazil, one done CV antibodies, evade vaccines, or , you know , something basically did the , this variance has acquired the [inaudible] nickname, EGFR mutation. And this mutation has been shown in South Africa that people who were previously infected and should have immunity had almost no him very little and a large, large portion of people had no , uh , advantageous , uh , antibody recognition of the new variants with this E mutation. And for vaccines, it was highly attenuated instead of 80 90% or 75. It was 50 or 60% efficacy because of this. And this is most predominantly in a South Africa , Brazil, very , but the, the Kent's UK B one 17 variants for most part, don't have it, but there's a subtle lineage separately in Wales. And in England that they learned it. So this is what we call convergent evolution. Like these mutations, they will always adapt to something that makes them much more fit and rigorous and faster spreading and can penetrate them , uh , in immunity better. And so this is why the longer we let the virus circulate the more of these mutations we're going to accumulate. So layman's , [inaudible] sorry, what was the last part, but what more, more, more searches , more lockdowns. And so I think it's crazy for them to say, Oh, this will be the last lockdown. They don't know what else could be coming. You know , B one 17 has already dominated UK, but , um, B one 17 is good for infecting Virgin fields of uninfected people, but the South Africa Barre or, or UK Sabir and the witness, each mutation can invade areas in which people have already been infected and think they're immune, but they're not. And it's also shown that the answer to AstraZeneca vaccine is pretty weak against this , um, the South Africa variant . So if anything, you see , and most of Europe is a reliance on the Oxford AstraZeneca , which is good for the older strains and the UK strain , but not against these mutated ones. This is where this is what you really come back to zero. Yeah . Zero just so much. But you know, a virus cannot mutate if it can't replicate. That's the main thing I want people to remember, remember no more mutations, if there's no more virus and the virus cannot survive being muzzled, but the virus can adapt to in more and more people, if you just let it float around and seen it with many immunocompromised people, that one immunocompromised people, do you think that's how the Kentz Marriott Rose one immunocompromised person just allow 20 mutations to arise from their bodies because they couldn't defeat the virus and the virus learn how to defeat the person.

Speaker 2:

Is there ridiculous thinking to use my term, but you can massage that how you want in, in suggesting that well, okay, let's just get everybody vaccinated. We'll reopen. And then, you know, as the variants mutate, we can massage every vaccine. And, you know, we'll just give you another vaccination in the autumn or at Christmas time, a booster booster.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Yeah. But by before now, and then boosters, not coming soon enough boosters still have to go through clinical trial testing. Unfortunately, it'll take quite a while unless the shortcut it somehow. Um, it w it will be quite a while before we have the booster. If we have a booster, now we can adapt, but this is not the last mutation. This is just the mutations that we're talking about now. And it's gonna be so many, many more mutations. The variety is the spice of life, right. And whenever it's challenged, it's the reason, oftentimes we see mutations is either someone compromised . And then, you know, they're , they're have very, very weak immune system, not able to fully suppress it, just like our lockdowns. You know, if it's not very strict and not long enough cancer suppress it , uh, we, these mutations will crop up and they'll actually do something. Some folks are worried that , um, these mutations that can evade immunity will crop up whenever we hit her to me . So basically the closer we are to 80%, 90% vaccinated, then the virus is running out of Virgin fields of people to , in fact , who've never been infected before. So then it will evolve to try to evade. It's kind of like when adult walls are closing in, when a dog has cornered, it will get desperate and try to find ways to skip over this fence. And right now, our fence is not hiding. What you have to do is you have two backs , innate and locked down at the same time, very quickly to muzzle this out. And once he muzzled it out and it's gone, then you can basically live on with your normal lives again. And that's what people want. People want normal lives, not yo-yo uncertainty. And I guarantee you, if we reopen too quickly, we're going to have this yo-yo uncertainty. This virus will come raging back, raging back. Once you reopen everything and schools, obviously it's a complicated issue schools. It does increase transmission, but if you take all the mitigations, it won't increase it as much. And if you mitigate other things, you can still allow, it's kind of like a buffer. You can still allow for some school transmission and still keep the art under one, right? Keeping the are under one is key. So if you lower everything else low enough, you can ha allow a little bit of school transmission and still have the overall trend go down. And, you know, obviously that's maybe the, perhaps the best, but you can't just swing open the doors cause school reopenings , it's very, very subjective thing. Are you swinging doors open without mass and any ventilation precaution , uh , or are you doing it with mass ventilation, HEPA filters or this course , the box approach and with testing and all these other things that can help protect the school and the community, if you reopened carefully. Yes, you can. But the fear is when you simply say it's safe to reopen, it becomes red as, Oh, it's okay. Kids are not at risk when , whenever that's clearly not the case. Anybody who says kids are not at risk or kids don't transmit in school, or just blindly, blindly naive, or just deceiving.

Speaker 6:

We really have a range in there. And I I'll let you go, because I know we've talked for a long time and I appreciate your insight. But, you know, from Asia where they really shut it down and they did zero COVID and then New Zealand and Australia, and then in Europe where it's been kind of allowed the perk along, but there have been some pretty serious lockdowns. And we're at the end of two months, now, two months now in the UK, and then to places like Florida, where I talked to somebody this week and they said, Oh, you know, we, we're not doing what you guys are doing over there. You know, we're w we're we've learned to live with this virus. And so it seems like we really go to an extreme

Speaker 1:

Florida. Yeah. Well, Florida is just different home , but it's, I think UK of all places can win. I think it has the resources. It has the expertise. It has the centralized government that if it , we want it to could achieve zero coded , they can bring it home if they want to . They can, they can just, you know, it's that last mile, that last kilometer of effort, you know, in running a marathon, that's hardest. But if you can reach the promise land by just persevering a little bit longer, right. You know, like U K from famously made the keep calm and carry on right now, we need to keep on the lockdown and carry on till we hit that zero or near zero level it's daunting,

Speaker 3:

But nobody wants to have wasted the last two months and return back and do this all again, three months from now, Dr. Eric [inaudible] Eric. Thanks so much. Thank you, Stacy . And that's our backstory on zero COVID. I'm publishing a newsletter on sub stock . It's Dana Lewis dot [inaudible] dot com. And there, I try to lead you through some of the big stories of the day and recommend what you can read on news of the day. Sign up if you like, it's free as is this podcast. All I ask is you subscribe and please share it. Thanks for listening to backstory. I'm Dana Lewis, and I'll talk to you again soon .