Delta Variant Incredibly Contagious In Australia

This news out of Australia seems horrible, the virus transmitted between strangers just walking past each other in a mall. Is this as bad as it seems? It sure looks bad to me. Also, is this Dr Eric Feigl-Ding a reliable source?

He is trained…but not particularly for that. He is a bit of an alarmist, and has had to delete tweets in the past:
Eric Feigl-Ding - Wikipedia

“We’ll all be rooned” said Hanrahan.

Total active cases in Australia 22nd June = 161, with 45 hospitalised
New cases on Tues 22nd: 10 locally acquired, 4 overseas arrivals.
If there was going to be a local mutation, based on infection numbers almost in single digits you’d have to be dammed unlucky.
There is no discussion in the media of a proximity spread variant of any name.

Maybe he has the wrong country?

You need to remember Australia and New Zealand are almost at elimination level.
Any increase is off a very low base.

It’s not a local mutation, though; it’s the Delta variant, which is already recognised as being significantly more infectious than previous variants - it was responsible for the recent spike in India. And Australia’s particular problem is that it has very low vaccination rates by comparison with Europe or North America. The intersection of the two factors could play out in a very unpleasant way.

Absolute case numbers in New South Wales are still very low, but the trend is worrying. Last week three locally-acquired cases of Covid infection were detected in NSW. This week, 39. Of which 17 have been detected in the past 24 hours. This could be a blip, or it could be the start of an exponential growth curve.

The ‘just walking past’ scenario was a real, legitimate, scientific-but-obvious-in-retrospect fear. For about 24 hours: the time it took them to do a repeat laboratory test, and realize that if you test lots and lots and lots of healthy people, sometimes you get false positives.

Normally they aren’t too worried about false positives. People test positive, and then, on retest, they don’t. But they were really really worried about this new ‘delta’ variant (of the ‘beta’ variant of COVID), and these people had been in the same area as somebody who was infected, and they tested positive, and the variant is really infective, and … they didn’t stop to think about the other obvious explanation, or, if they did, they decided not to tell the press.

So a couple of days later, not so much to worry about, no ‘just walking past’ infection this time.

To me, this count as an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence. If you’re aiming to turn over existing consensus, you’ve got to come with A LOT of evidence, A LOT of replication, A LOT of corroboration, and A LOT of voices.

He is not. Czarcasm was being kind.

Even if we take all of this at face value, there’s nothing remarkable about infecting multiple people by walking past them in a mall. What would be remarkable would be if epidemiologists were able to determine that that’s what actually happened.

We already know that some fraction of the population are superspreaders, and that these superspreaders are responsible for a large portion of the virus’s transmission. So a superspreader goes to a mall, and just happens to sneeze just as several other people are walking past, and his sneeze just happens to have a higher-than-usual viral load in it. That sort of thing happens. It doesn’t happen every time, though.

Haven’t read the whole Tweet thread but 10 to 60 cm is roughly 4 to 24 inches. The recommendation for social distancing is 2m or 200 cm.

Presupposes social distancing is in full force but since Australia has done well managing so far it may not be.

10cm verges on intimate contact rather than social distancing.

Life in Sydney has been close to normal for the past 12 months. We look at our Melbourne based colleagues who’ve been through a series of extended lockdowns during that period and wonder how we have dodged those bullets.

The Bondi cluster, where the current outbreak first emerged in Sydney’s east, now stands at 65 cases. Nationally there were 32 new cases yesterday.

Just to reassure you that this is being taken seriously four local government areas (LGAs) in Sydney’s east (City of Sydney, Woollahra, Waverley and Randwick) have been placed in a week long lockdown from midnight.

I just saw this article today about the situation in Australia - Why the Delta Variant Could End Australia’s Pursuit of ‘Covid Zero’. (Yeah, NYT so it may be paywalled.)

Three days after the emergence of a rare Covid-19 case in Sydney, around 40 friends gathered for a birthday party. Along with cake and laughter, there was a hidden threat: One of the guests had unknowingly crossed paths with that single Covid case, an airport driver who had caught the Delta variant from an American aircrew.
Two weeks later, 27 people from the party have tested positive, including a 2-year-old child, along with 14 close contacts. And the seven people at the gathering who were not infected? They were all vaccinated.

The bolded section at the end got me wondering why so few people were vaccinated. Then I read further and the article said only 8% of Aussies are fully vaxxed. 8%? WTF?

I understand they’ve managed to keep earlier outbreaks under control but come on. I also understand they are physically isolated and closing borders is easier for them or places like New Zealand. But once you start opening up, what is going to protect your unvaccinated population? Particularly given all the variants. Why wouldn’t they push vaccinations just to be safe? Is this a political thing or just recklessness?

From what I’ve read elsewhere, it’s a combination of lack of supply (and most of what they do have is AZ, which they aren’t recommending for people under fifty) and general hesitancy. Per this article, Australia may be something of a victim of its own success – people who don’t perceive themselves to be at risk are not in any hurry – and they also seem to have botched their public health messaging to the point where people perceive more risks than benefits to the vaccine.

Yes, we are lagging well behind comparable OECD nations in vaccination, although the most recent outbreaks where most of the capital cities were affected did seem to shake both the federal govt and complacent people up a bit.

The reasons were all fairly sensible - not having the same critical need to be the first to get vaccinated, placing advance orders for 4 vaccines in development rather than half a dozen, getting full regulatory approval for each vaccine rather than an emergency approval, providing strict guidance on which age group should get each treatment. The net effect though is that the vaccine rollout has been delayed quite a bit, and fed complacency. There is also a fairly significant effect from the way vaccination responsibilities are split between federal [mainly regulatory but trying to manage the vaccine rollout] and state [usually delivery but not given adequate supply to meet local demand].

There is now [as of Friday] a plan to have a plan about opening up the country in stages, but it is completely dependent on a high vaccination threshold being reached, which is not likely to be reached this year. Bad as that is, the perversities of recovery mean that on many economic measures Australia is already doing better than it was on the eve of the epidemic, which again feeds the idea that we shouldn’t rush these things.

I think that’s a very good summary.

Life here in Sydney was pretty much back to normal for the past 6-9 months. A lot of that credit needs to go to the contact tracking system and the willingness of the locals to go along with it. And our share of sheer blind luck. Bit different for those in Melbourne who were in an extended lockdown but Queensland and Western Australia also were ticking along nicely.

The Australian economy is now larger than it was before the arrival of COVID-19.