Learning the rules of Covid-speak: no mu is good news, our R number is comforting and NZ has moved up the OECD ladder

PM  Jacinda   Ardern   and  her  government   have  developed   a  Covid-speak   which  holds  its  own  fascination and,  according  to  some, needs  its  own  interpreters.

In much the same way (according to Forbes)  the World Health Organisation is monitoring a new coronavirus variant known as “Mu”, amid concerns that it has mutations which suggest it is more resistant to vaccines.

In a weekly pandemic bulletin, the UN agency said Mu – known scientifically as B.1.621 – has been designated as a “variant of interest”, a classification used to target research and highlight potentially worrying new strains.

“The Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape,” the WHO report said.

The  outbreak  of Covid-speak,  along  with Mu,  shows  NZ  is  far  from  being done  with Covid.

Ardern  has her  own mutation  of  Covid-speak.

On  Sunday  she  was talking about vaccine availability at  a  time when Health Ministry records indicate around 400,000 doses  are sitting at central warehouses – enough for just under a week’s supply at current rates.

Ardern insists NZ will not run out of Pfizer vaccine, from the company it is solely relying on to vaccinate every consenting adult Kiwi this year.

But she also admitted a new strategy is needed in light of the unexpected growth.

“It’s a very dynamic situation,” Ardern said.

“It’s not a matter of running out, it’s a matter of whether or not we are in a position where we need to have a little less demand.”

Not  surprisingly,  not  everyone  understood  this   immediately.  National’s  Chris  Bishop  called her comment “unbelievable”.  He  believes  NZ’s vaccine roll-out has been the slowest in the developed world.

He dipped into his Opposition politicians’ lexicon and railed against “incompetence on a grand scale.”

The  director-general  of  health,  Dr  Ashley  Bloomfield,   has  his  expert   Covid-speak.  He often mentions the  R number,

The R number of Covid-19 is the average number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to. The case numbers are a function of this number. When it’s above 1 case numbers will go up, when it’s below 1, the case numbers go down.

On Sunday, Bloomfield said Covid-19 modelling suggested the R number in NZ was about 0.8.

On Wednesday, he doubled down on this, saying there was a 90% chance the R number was below 1.

This  exchange   from Parliament  has another  example:

 Judith Collins: Can she rule out having to delay vaccine appointments that have already been booked due to an anticipated shortage of vaccines?

Prime  Minister: Actually, that is incorrect. It is not that we have had a shortage of vaccines; it’s that we’ve put in additional surge capacity to allow a considerable increase in vaccinations.

Finally, let’s be cheered by the news that NZ is  no longer  bottom  of the  OECD table for   vaccinations.

According to Stuff: 

With Covid-19 loose in the community, Kiwis are clearly very keen to get vaccinated. In the last week well-over half a million Kiwis got a dose of the vaccine, with an average of 1.5 per cent of the entire population being jabbed every single day.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been keen to highlight this, holding up an A3 graph proudly at the 1pm podium that showed we could beat Australia at something else but rugby.   

Yet while we are going faster than Australia, we’re still behind them – as the Opposition is keen to point out.

Indeed – as Stuff pointed out – we’re still behind almost every other developed country, although we did pass Mexico this week.

And this does mean that the phrase “the bottom of the OECD” no longer quite applies.

Oh – and to wrap up this post:

A third shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine eight months after full inoculation led to a 20-fold increase in neutralising antibodies against the beta variant  —  the most resistant antibody to-date. Meanwhile, Moderna’s booster shot achieved a 10-fold increase. This was reported by Bloomberg.


One thought on “Learning the rules of Covid-speak: no mu is good news, our R number is comforting and NZ has moved up the OECD ladder

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