Covid Confusion

Covid Confusion

The spike in Covid-19 in certain countries in the southern hemisphere is causing mayhem in the travel industry. Today South Africa moved to an “adjusted alert Level 4″ which further closes down the country, and separately, the CDC advised even vaccinated travelers against visiting Tanzania.

This needs much explanation, especially since the new Tanzanian president is really moving the country in the right direction. But the one thing she refuses to do is specifically why the CDC kiboshed Tanzanian travel. In South Africa’s case, it’s just rotten luck.

Following every precedent we have of previous epidemics, a third wave is surging through unvaccinnated populations throughout the world in the southern hemisphere, as winter arrives.

Sydney’s lockdown to South Africa’s tightened restrictions come to countries in the south that have vaccinated very few of their citizens. Neither Australia or South Africa have vaccinated more than 4-5% of their populations and their spikes are increasing.

In contrast in Chile and Argentina — where just under 50% of the populations have received at least one dose — noticeable declines in daily cases are moderating their spikes and no new restrictions have been issued.

Australia suffers almost as much from conspiracy theories and right-wing paranoia as it does from covid. Admittedly the government was slow in requisitioning vaccine, but now the BBC reports that vaccine hesitancy is its main problem.

It couldn’t be more different in South Africa where one misfortune was followed by another. South Africa bet on the AstraZenca vaccine and made deals equivalent to the US’s deals with Pfizer and Moderna. When AstraZenca went sour, the South African CDC banned it.

Then as fast as they could South Africa struck new deals with Johnson and Johnson. Then contamination hit the Baltimore plant where a huge portion of the ready-to-ship doses were destined for South Africa.

Tanzania is a story all to its own. Until the last president who denied that covid existed in his country, died of covid, we knew from stealth home videos and anonymous reporting that the situation was terrible there.

It was against the law to say the word, “covid.” Only prayer was allowed. Citizens were instructed by police to turn in relatives sneaking off to Kenya for treatment. Mask wearing and social distancing were prohibited.

That’s changed completely.

The current Tanzanian president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, not only wears a mask but insists all citizens do. She set up a health commission shortly after she ascended to the presidency from being vice-president, and that commission has recommended all sorts of common mitigation policies. It’s way behind in the game but the country is attempting now to get vaccines.

It gets even better. Samia has released jailed journalists and encouraged wide-spread public debate. She’s invited opposition politicians in exile to return home and participate in bringing the country out of the pandemic.

But Samia is cutting off her nose to spite her face by continuing to refuse to submit health statistics to WHO. Now it could be that the former dictator had so quashed the gathering of health statistics that it will take Samia some time to create a viable reporting mechanism.

Regardless, the American CDC is playing by the rules:

“Because the current situation in Tanzania is unknown, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants,” the CDC says.

I’m no scientist, but that’s stretching the facts. Only four days ago, the CDC stated, “So far, studies suggest that the current authorized vaccines work on the circulating variants.” In an interview later in that same day Anthony Fauci said, “the good news is that vaccines…will likely be effective against the variant.”

So in other words the CDC’s recommendation against travel to Tanzania is because the CDC doesn’t know if there might just be a new and different variant from all those known, because Tanzania is not reporting any statistics and still prohibits global health officials from investigating on site.

It’s a terrible mistake by Tanzania. But it’s also a leap of pessimism by the CDC, which understandably is governed by the rules of reportable science. It’s likely that Tanzania’s situation is similar to Kenya’s, its close neighbor. If so things are getting better, not worse.

Getting better? In Kenya but not South Africa?

And in Nigeria and Sierra Leone and even Ethiopia and Angola. What’s going on? Those country’s have on the whole vaccinated fewer than 2% of the population.

In less developed countries the sick have always been under-reported. In less developed countries there are usually areas of extreme population density, in publicly organized settlements, refugee camps much less the world’s greatest slums. It’s likely some natural herd immunity has occurred there by now.

But in more developed countries like South Africa and Australia it’s clear that vaccinations do the trick, and perhaps, are the only way to do the trick.

Australia has made itself sick. South Africa is beset by misfortune.