What’s Worse Than a Pandemic? A Twindemic

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On the record of issues to fret about within the age of SARS-CoV-2, boring, outdated winter flu most likely doesn’t rank extremely. Particularly not in the course of a summer season warmth wave. And but it ought to.

Humanity has grown so accustomed to annual waves of influenza that it was the baseline comparability when Covid first arrived. (It’ll be simply one other flu, we stated.) The implication was that ranges of influenza illness, hospitalization and loss of life have been acceptable, even inevitable.

I used to be definitely responsible of that considering. Though my employer provides an annual flu shot, I typically didn’t hassle to get it. However the pandemic has uncovered the weak spot of our attitudes and insurance policies towards influenza. We now have a possibility to do issues otherwise. This isn’t an argument for flu-driven lockdowns or a nationwide paranoia about any bug. However we are able to construct higher defenses towards influenza at comparatively little value, and for a acquire in lives and health-care capability.

One purpose to get extra severe about flu is its value, each economically and in human phrases. Annual prices of treating influenza (routinely in extra of $10 billion within the U.S.) are vital, even whenever you simply have a look at hospital outlays for these most severely affected.

Influenza epidemics within the northern hemisphere have an effect on anyplace from 5% to fifteen% of the inhabitants yearly. On common, about 8% of the U.S. inhabitants get sick from flu every season. For many, it’s normally a light, if disagreeable expertise. However for some, it may be lethal.

The U.S. Facilities for Illness Management estimates that, on common, 36,000 folks have died of flu every year during the last decade, with 61,000 deaths within the 2017-2018 flu season. Within the U.Okay., the common is about 17,000 annual deaths. Clearly, Covid is a unique order of magnitude, however the prices to the health-care system from flu should not trivial.

The aged are most susceptible to flu, however so are pregnant ladies, very younger youngsters and people with different medical circumstances and weakened immune methods. Some who contract and recuperate from flu find yourself with post-viral signs that drag on. Lengthy Covid has confirmed us simply how debilitating these could be.

What occurs whenever you layer flu on high of Covid-19? We don’t actually know, since final winter noticed an extremely delicate flu season, principally as a consequence of measures equivalent to lockdowns, social distancing and masking. Infections charges for flu have been two-thirds decrease than in the course of the 2011-2012 season, which had file low charges.

We are able to’t depend on a repeat. The low prevalence of flu final 12 months makes it tougher to foretell which strains to incorporate on this winter’s vaccine. We might get fortunate once more, or issues might worsen: Lowered ranges of pure immunity after a couple of low-flu seasons might make it simpler for brand new variants to take maintain.

Britain, with its overstretched nationwide health-care system and gargantuan backlog of surgical procedures and different procedures, can scarcely afford a foul flu season. Consultations for influenza-like diseases take up substantial GP time and hospital capability in a standard 12 months. Excessive charges of flu on high of Covid can be a pressure too far, requiring substantial new authorities sources and leaving many individuals with out remedy.

However it’s not simply the compounded well being burden that ought to make us rethink influenza. The very fact is, we’ve got been far too complacent about flu for too lengthy. Many flu deaths are preventable with jabs and the sorts of behavioral modifications we’ve grown accustomed to from Covid.

Not solely did the social-distancing measures imposed in the course of the pandemic lower the unfold of flu, they’re additionally estimated to have led to a 20% drop within the widespread respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) within the U.S. RSV accounts for five% of the deaths in youngsters below 5 globally. The issue now, nonetheless, is that the current lifting of Covid restrictions has coincided with unseasonably excessive RSV circumstances within the U.S.

Larger ranges of flu vaccination can be a game-changer. Final winter, flu vaccine uptake in Britain reached file ranges, with the Nationwide Well being Service vaccinating greater than 80% of these over 65 — 10% increased than the earlier 12 months and forward of the World Well being Group purpose of 75% for the primary time.

However the vaccination price drops off with the younger. Lower than 45% of these below 65 with a number of underlying danger components will get vaccinated. Though greater than 2.5 million youngsters have been vaccinated by means of college packages, that’s nonetheless properly below half (47.5%) of all children. Uptake additionally varies throughout ethnic teams, with some minorities lagging in getting vaccines. Within the U.S., Black communities (the place vaccine charges are round 41%) had the best flu-related hospitalization price of any ethnicity.

A examine on the College of Bristol is presently searching for to find out what negative effects folks get when given the really useful flu vaccine together with both the Oxford/AstraZeneca or the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. Getting a joint Covid-19 booster shot and flu shot might guarantee that there’s extra flu vaccine protection.

In fact, the effectiveness of flu vaccines can range from one season to the following and from individual to individual. They’re usually between 40% and 60% efficient once they match up properly with the variants circulating.

So we’d be properly served to additionally apply our Covid habits to diseases like flu. Which may imply extra hybrid working throughout peak flu months or if there’s an outbreak. Masking at sure occasions, even when not obligatory, makes loads of sense too.

If Covid-19, like flu, goes to be a recurrent seasonal affliction — as appears possible — we might want to higher handle the stress on the well being methods in the course of the winter. Meaning being ready to finance increased ranges of care throughout these crunch intervals or doing extra to cut back the pressure on the system. We’ll most probably by no means remove influenza and different viruses, however we are able to make winters more cost effective and fewer depressing by elevating the bar on an sickness that many people handled too casually.

Source: What’s worse than a pandemic? A twindemic | Asia Post

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Critics:

As public health officials look to fall and winter, the specter of a new surge of Covid-19 gives them chills. But there is a scenario they dread even more: a severe flu season, resulting in a “twindemic.”

Even a mild flu season could stagger hospitals already coping with Covid-19 cases. And though officials don’t know yet what degree of severity to anticipate this year, they are worried large numbers of people could forgo flu shots, increasing the risk of widespread outbreaks.

The concern about a twindemic is so great that officials around the world are pushing the flu shot even before it becomes available in clinics and doctors’ offices. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been talking it up, urging corporate leaders to figure out ways to inoculate employees. The C.D.C. usually purchases 500,000 doses for uninsured adults but this year ordered an additional 9.3 million doses.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been imploring people to get the flu shot, “so that you could at least blunt the effect of one of those two potential respiratory infections.”

The flu vaccine is rarely mandated in the U.S. except by some health care facilities and nursery schools, but this month the statewide University of California system announced that because of the pandemic, it is requiring all 230,000 employees and 280,000 students to get the flu vaccine by November 1.

According to the C.D.C., flu season occurs in the fall and winter, peaking from December to February, and so was nearing its end as the pandemic began to flare in the United States in March.

Vaccine mandates are controversial. They’re also effective.

Guam tries to revive tourism with vaccine vacations.

Chicago will require masks in school this fall, regardless of vaccination status.

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The Lambda Coronavirus Variant Has Arrived In Australia Here’s What We Know So Far

We’ve seen the Alpha, Kappa and Delta variants cross our borders, but it turns out another strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 has reached our shores.

The variant, named Lambda by the World Health Organization (WHO) last month, was detected in an overseas traveller who was in hotel quarantine in New South Wales in April, according to national genomics database AusTrakka.

Some reports suggest the new variant could be fast spreading and difficult to tackle with vaccines. So what sets this variant apart from others and should we be concerned?

Here’s what we know so far.

Where did it originate?

Previously known as C.37, Lambda was first detected in Peru in December 2020. Since then, it’s spread to 29 countries, seven of which are in South America.

In April and May this year, Lambda accounted for over 80 per cent of COVID-19 cases in Peru, with a high proportion of cases also in Chile, Argentina, and Ecuador.

On 14 June, Lambda was listed as a ‘variant of interest’ by the World Health Organization due to its vast spread in South America.

Variants of interest are listed as such because they have the potential to be more infectious and severe, but haven’t yet had the devastating impact of those listed as variants of concern.

On 23 June, Public Health England classified it as a ‘variant under investigation’, after six cases were detected in the UK to date, which were all linked to overseas travel.

What makes it different from other variants?

There are now 11 official SARS-CoV-2 variants listed by the WHO.

All SARS-CoV-2 variants are distinguished from one another by mutations in their spike proteins — the components of the virus that allow it to invade human cells.

For instance, the Delta variant first detected in India has two key spike protein mutations — T478K and L452R  — that allow it to infect cells more easily and evade the body’s immune response.

According to research published last week but yet to be peer reviewed,  Lambda has seven unique spike protein mutations.

A Chilean team of scientists analysed blood samples from health workers in Santiago who had received two doses of the CoronaVac vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech in China.

They found  the Lambda variant has a mutation called L452Q, which is similar to the L452R mutation seen in the Delta and Epsilon variants.

As the L452R mutation is thought to make Delta and Epsilon more infectious and resilient against vaccination, the team concluded that Lambda’s L452Q mutation might also help it spread far and wide.

While it’s possible that Lambda is indeed more infectious than other variants, it’s too early to know for sure, said Kirsty Short, a virologist at the University of Queensland.

“It’s very preliminary,” said Dr Short, who was not involved in the study.

“It’s a good starting point, but I certainly wouldn’t infer anything from that into the clinic.”

Are vaccines still effective against the Lambda variant?

The study also found signs that Lambda’s unique spike mutations could help it slip past the body’s immune response.

The results of the study suggested that the CoronaVac vaccine produces fewer neutralising antibodies — proteins that defend cells against infections — in response to the Lambda variant.

But according to Paul Griffin, who specialises in infectious diseases and vaccines at the University of Queensland, it’s important to remember that these antibodies are just one aspect of immunity.

“We know that [neutralizing antibodies] only tell a part of the story,” said Dr Griffin, who was not involved in the study.

“If that further immunity remains intact, then even with a reduction in neutralizing antibodies, sometimes that protection can still be enough.”

It’s also worth remembering that different vaccines work in different ways to respond to the virus and its variants.

“You can’t really extrapolate from one vaccine,” Dr Short said.

CoronaVac uses inactive versions of SARS-CoV-2 to kick the immune system into gear.

On the other hand, Pfizer contains a single strand of the genetic code that builds the virus’s spike proteins, while AstraZeneca contains a double-strand.

Dr Griffin said that more traditional inactivated vaccines like CoronaVac have proven to be less effective overall than others.

“As a broad category, the inactivated ones have been a little bit underwhelming, particularly compared to others that have such high rates of efficacy,” said Dr Griffin, who was not involved in the study.

While not much is known about how effective the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are against Lambda, their response to the Delta variant can offer clues.

A recent study from the UK found that two doses of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca are over 90 per cent effective at preventing hospitalisation due to the Delta variant.

Should Australia be worried?

While there has only been one case of Lambda recorded in hotel quarantine in Australia so far, it’s worth keeping an eye on the emergence and spread of SARS-CoV-2 variants around the world, Dr Short said.

“There’s a reason why it’s a variant that we’re watching and looking into more, but it’s certainly not at a point of panic or anything like that.”

Dr Griffin added that Lambda would need to out-compete Delta to become a major concern. “That’s certainly not what we’re seeing,” he said.  But as more people get infected, the more chance the virus has to evolve into new variants, Dr Short said.

The best way to tackle this is to focus on getting more people vaccinated, not just in Australia, but globally. “What this should emphasise to everyone is that we need global effort in the vaccination campaign,” Dr Short said.

 By: ABC Health & Wellbeing Gemma Conroy

Source: The Lambda coronavirus variant has arrived in Australia. Here’s what we know so far – ABC News

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The COVID-19 Symptoms Doctors Are Seeing The Most Right Now

More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, experts have unraveled so many mysteries about how to treat the virus and prevent it. But at the same time, SARS-CoV-2 is always changing as new variants emerge. And accordingly, the ways in which the virus affects people seem to be shifting as well.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most common COVID-19 symptoms doctors are seeing right now, and how vaccines and variants fit into this picture.

The most common symptoms — such as cough, fever, and loss of taste and smell — are all still pretty much the same.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the most common symptoms of the virus included a cough (often dry), shortness of breath, a fever of 100 degrees or higher, and the sudden loss of taste and smell.

Those, however, are by no means the only frequent symptoms. People also report everything from headaches to diarrhea, all of which are listed on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s rundown of common possible symptoms.

For the most part, that list of the most common symptoms hasn’t really changed. “The symptoms are really the same as before. It’s the headache, cough, fatigue, runny nose, fever — those kind of generalized flu-like symptoms,” said Jonathan Leizman, chief medical officer of Premise Health, a health care company headquartered in Tennessee.

The emergency warning signs of COVID-19 have also stayed pretty much the same. Those include issues like trouble breathing, persistent chest pain or pressure, and new mental confusion.

With the delta variant, some people’s symptoms might look more like a common cold.

The delta variant (B.1.617.2) is circulating widely around the globe and is now the main strain here in the United States; it’s hitting areas with high numbers of unvaccinated Americans particularly hard.

There is some initial evidence that the symptoms associated with delta might be a bit different than those with the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, though experts caution that it remains too early to say definitively.

“The information we’re getting from the U.K. and Europe and some initial surveys here in the United States is that the delta virus infection seems to be more likely to produce symptoms that are more typical of a common cold,” said William Powderly, co-director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, which has recently seen a big uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. “That’s a sore throat, mild cough and nasal congestion.”

“The symptoms we were seeing earlier on, which were much more like lower respiratory and fever, are less common,” Powderly added. “That isn’t to say they don’t happen. But there does seem to be a shift in the frequency and type of symptoms being reported.”

Experts don’t yet understand why the symptoms might be slightly different. It could be simply that there are now more infections in younger people, Powderly said. At the same time, researchers are exploring how variants classified as “of concern” and “of interest” — including delta but also lambda and others — might be different in terms of their ability to be transmitted or to make people more or less sick.

The newer coronavirus variants could be making people sicker.

While some people infected with the delta variant have symptoms that are in line with a common cold, there is also preliminary evidence suggesting that other people’s symptoms may be “more intensely felt” with delta, Leizman said.

“We have seen that hospitalization rates are seemingly increased in younger populations with the delta variant,” he offered as an example.

But at this point, there’s no scientific consensus on whether the delta variant is likely to make people sicker than the initial strain, simply because it (and other variants) are so new. The best we have at this point are one-off studies, surveys or even just anecdotal information from the field.

“There’s now data coming out of England and Scotland showing that the severity of the disease may be increased, and it may be leading to an increased risk of hospitalization,” said Carlos Malvestutto, an infectious disease specialist at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.

“People who are not vaccinated are particularly vulnerable because the new variants — and particularly the delta variant — transmits faster and may be causing more severe disease,” Malvestutto added.

Symptoms tend to be mild in those who are fully vaccinated.

While the vast majority of new cases and hospitalizations occur in those who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 (around 99% of new infections in some parts of the country), so-called “breakthrough cases” do occur among those who’ve received both shots of either of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine.

But the symptoms people experience in those instances tend to be relatively mild, according to the data that’s available at this point. About a third of people who got infected after being fully vaccinated were totally asymptomatic, for example.

The CDC now only tracks breakthrough cases that result in hospitalization or death, so there’s just not really robust data looking at how many people experience milder symptoms post-vaccine (or no symptoms at all), nor is there clarity about what variant those people may have caught. Still, there have been high-profile breakthrough infections in the news, like the New York Yankees cluster or entertainment reporter Catt Sadler, who recently said she had contracted COVID-19 after vaccination.

Ultimately, however, the goal of vaccination is not only to reduce transmission but to also drastically reduce hospitalizations and deaths — and the vaccines have done just that.

“The vast majority of individuals who are fully vaccinated do not have those severe consequences of disease, which makes us think the symptoms might be more mild in general for individuals who are fully vaccinated,” Leizman said.

Breakthrough cases also remain rare. As of mid-July, the CDC said that more than 157 million people in the United States had been fully vaccinated. There have been about 5,000 patients with COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough infections who were hospitalized or who died — though not all of those cases were directly attributed to COVID-19.

Which is why health experts are adamant that getting vaccinated is the best thing people can do to keep themselves and others safe — and to avoid developing any kind of symptoms at all.

“I’m in a state where we’re seeing a significant uptick in hospitalized patients … and they’re all people who have not been vaccinated, which is really hard and devastating, because these are completely preventable,” Powderly said.

Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but guidance can change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.

Source: The COVID-19 Symptoms Doctors Are Seeing The Most Right Now | HuffPost UK Wellness

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References :

The Delta SARS-CoV-2 variant first appeared in India in October 2020. This is the fastest-growing variant and is currently outpacing all other variants. This variant contains the “eek” mutation in the Spike protein, which helps the virus evade certain antibodies.  As a result, the Delta variant has shown significantly increased transmission.

This variant is responsible for the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases in India over the past several months. Additionally, this variant has been identified in over 98 countries across the world as of July 2, 2021. Both the Pfizer/BioNTech (88%) and the AstraZeneca/Vaxzevria (67%) vaccine demonstrated protection was retained against severe disease caused by the Delta variant. Data is still limited relating to vaccine efficacy and the delta variant.

  1. Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID)
  2. Network for Genomics Surveillance in South Africa 
  3. Journal- Increased transmissibility and global spread of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern as at June 2021
  4. Journal- Effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against hospital admission with the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant
  5. Sheikh A, McMenamin J, Taylor B, Robertson C. SARS-CoV-2 Delta VOC in Scotland: demographics, risk of hospital admission, and vaccine effectiveness. 

 

COVID-19 Did Not Affect Mental Health the Way You Think

You’ve probably heard that the coronavirus pandemic triggered a worldwide mental-health crisis. This narrative took hold almost as quickly as the virus itself. In the spring of 2020, article after article—even an op-ed by one of us—warned of a looming psychological epidemic.

As clinical scientists and research psychologists have pointed out, the coronavirus pandemic has created many conditions that might lead to psychological distress: sudden, widespread disruptions to people’s livelihoods and social connections; millions bereaved; and the most vulnerable subjected to long-lasting hardship. A global collapse in well-being has seemed inevitable.

We joined a mental-health task force, commissioned by The Lancet, in order to quantify the pandemic’s psychological effects. When we reviewed the best available data, we saw that some groups—including people facing financial stress—have experienced substantial, life-changing suffering. However, looking at the global population on the whole, we were surprised not to find the prolonged misery we had expected.

We combed through close to 1,000 studies that examined hundreds of thousands of people from nearly 100 countries. This research measured many variables related to mental health—including anxiety, depression, and deaths by suicide—as well as life satisfaction. We focused on two complementary types of evidence:

Surveys that examined comparable groups of people before and during the pandemic and studies tracking the same individuals over time. Neither type of study is perfect, but when the same conclusions emerged from both sets of evidence, we gained confidence that we were seeing something real.

Early in the pandemic, our team observed in these studies what the media was reporting: Average levels of anxiety and depression—as well as broader psychological distress—climbed dramatically, as did the number of people experiencing clinically significant forms of these conditions.

For example, in both the U.S. and Norway, reports of depression rose three-fold during March and April of 2020 compared with averages collected in previous years. And in a study of more than 50,000 people across the United Kingdom, 27 percent showed clinically significant levels of distress early in the pandemic, compared with 19 percent before the pandemic.

But as spring turned to summer, something remarkable happened: Average levels of depression, anxiety, and distress began to fall. Some data sets even suggested that overall psychological distress returned to near-pre-pandemic levels by early summer 2020. We share what we learned in a paper that is forthcoming in Perspective on Psychological Science.

We kept digging into the data to account for any anomalies. For example, some of the data sets came disproportionately from wealthy countries, so we expanded our geographic lens. We also considered that even if the pandemic didn’t produce intense, long-term distress, it might have undercut people’s overall life satisfaction. So, members from our team examined the largest data set available on that topic, from the Gallup World Poll.

This survey asks people to evaluate their life on a 10-point scale, with 10 being the best possible life and zero being the worst. Representative samples of people from most of the world’s countries answer this question every year, allowing us to compare results from 2020 with preceding years. Looking at the world as a whole, we saw no trace of a decline in life satisfaction: People in 2020 rated their lives at 5.75 on average, identical to the average in previous years.

We also wondered if the surveys weren’t reaching the people who were struggling the most. If you’re barely holding things together, you might not answer calls from a researcher. However, real-time data from official government sources in 21 countries showed no detectable increase in instances of suicide from April to July 2020, relative to previous years; in fact, suicide rates actually declined slightly within some countries, including the U.S. For example, California expected to see 1,429 deaths by suicide during this period, based on data from prior years; instead, 1,280 occurred.

We were surprised by how well many people weathered the pandemic’s psychological challenges. In order to make sense of these patterns, we looked back to a classic psychology finding: People are more resilient than they themselves realize. We imagine that negative life events—losing a job or a romantic partner—will be devastating for months or years. When people actually experience these losses, however, their misery tends to fade far faster than they imagined it would.

The capacity to withstand difficult events also applies to traumas such as living through war or sustaining serious injury. These incidents can produce considerable anguish, and we don’t want to minimize the pain that so many suffer. But study after study demonstrates that a majority of survivors either bounce back quickly or never show a substantial decline in mental health.

Human beings possess what some researchers call a psychological immune system, a host of cognitive abilities that enable us to make the best of even the worst situation. For example, after breaking up with a romantic partner, people may focus on the ex’s annoying habits or relish their newfound free time.

The pandemic has been a test of the global psychological immune system, which appears more robust than we would have guessed. When familiar sources of enjoyment evaporated in the spring of 2020, people got creative. They participated in drive-by birthday parties, mutual-assistance groups, virtual cocktail evenings with old friends, and nightly cheers for health-care workers.

Some people got really good at baking. Many found a way to reweave their social tapestry. Indeed, across multiple large data sets, levels of loneliness showed only a modest increase, with 13.8 percent of adults in the U.S. reporting always or often feeling lonely in April 2020, compared with 11 percent in spring 2018.

But these broad trends and averages shouldn’t erase the real struggles—immense pain, overwhelming loss, financial hardships—that so many people have faced over the past 17 months. For example, that 2.8 percent increase in the number of Americans reporting loneliness last spring represents 7 million people. Like so many aspects of the pandemic, the coronavirus’s mental-health toll was not distributed evenly.

Early on, some segments of the population—including women and parents of young children—exhibited an especially pronounced increase in overall psychological distress. As the pandemic progressed, lasting mental-health challenges disproportionately affected people who were facing financial issues, individuals who got sick with COVID-19, and those who had been struggling with physical and mental-health disorders prior to the pandemic.

The resilience of the population as a whole does not relieve leaders of their responsibility to provide tangible support and access to mental-health services to those people who have endured the most intense distress and who are at the greatest ongoing risk.

But the astonishing resilience that most people have exhibited in the face of the sudden changes brought on by the pandemic holds its own lessons. We learned that people can handle temporary changes to their lifestyle—such as working from home, giving up travel, or even going into isolation—better than some policy makers seemed to assume.

As we look ahead to the world’s next great challenges—including a future pandemic—we need to remember this hard-won lesson: Human beings are not passive victims of change but active stewards of our own well-being. This knowledge should empower us to make the disruptive changes our societies may require, even as we support the individuals and communities that have been hit hardest.

By: Lara Aknin, Jamil Zaki, and Elizabeth Dunn

Lara Aknin is a psychology professor at Simon Fraser University and the chair of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Task Force for The Lancet’s COVID-19 Commission. Jamil Zaki is a professor of psychology at Stanford University and the director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Laboratory. He is the author of The War For Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World. Elizabeth Dunn is a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia and a co-author of Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending.

Source: COVID-19 Did Not Affect Mental Health the Way You Think – The Atlantic

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Critics:

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the mental health of people around the world. Similar to the past respiratory viral epidemics, such as the SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and the influenza epidemics, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in different population groups, including the healthcare workers, general public, and the patients and quarantined individuals.

The Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee of the United Nations recommends that the core principles of mental health support during an emergency are “do no harm, promote human rights and equality, use participatory approaches, build on existing resources and capacities, adopt multi-layered interventions and work with integrated support systems.”COVID-19 is affecting people’s social connectedness, their trust in people and institutions, their jobs and incomes, as well as imposing a huge toll in terms of anxiety and worry.

COVID-19 also adds to the complexity of substance use disorders (SUDs) as it disproportionately affects people with SUD due to accumulated social, economic, and health inequities. The health consequences of SUDs (for example, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, type 2 diabetes, immunosuppression and central nervous system depression, and psychiatric disorders) and the associated environmental challenges (e.g., housing instability, unemployment, and criminal justice involvement) increase risk for COVID-19.

References

Global Boom in House Prices Becomes a Dilemma for Central Banks

Surging house prices across much of the globe are emerging as a key test for central banks’ ability to rein in their crisis support.

Withdrawing stimulus too slowly risks inflating real estate further and worsening financial stability concerns in the longer term. Pulling back too hard means unsettling markets and sending property prices lower, threatening the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bubble Trouble

Countries seeing surging real house price growth

Source: OECD

With memories of the global financial crisis that was triggered by a housing bust still fresh in policy makers minds, how to keep a grip on soaring house prices is a dilemma in the forefront of deliberations as recovering growth sees some central banks discuss slowing asset purchases and even raising interest rates.

Federal Reserve officials who favor tapering their bond buying program have cited rising house prices as one reason to do so. In particular, they are looking hard at the Fed’s purchases of mortgage backed securities, which some worry are stoking housing demand in an already hot market.

In the coming week, central bankers in New Zealand, South Korea and Canada meet to set policy, with soaring home prices in each spurring pressure to do something to keep homes affordable for regular workers.

New Zealand policy makers are battling the hottest property market in the world, according to the Bloomberg Economics global bubble ranking. The central bank, which meets Wednesday, has been given another tool to tackle the issue, and its projections for the official cash rate show it starting to rise in the second half of 2022.

Facing criticism for its role in stoking housing prices, Canada’s central bank has been among the first from advanced economies to shift to a less expansionary policy, with another round of tapering expected at a policy decision also on Wednesday.

The Bank of Korea last month warned that real estate is “significantly overpriced” and the burden of household debt repayment is growing. But a worsening virus outbreak may be a more pressing concern at Thursday’s policy meeting in Seoul.

In its biggest strategic rethink since the creation of the euro, the European Central Bank this month raised its inflation target and in a nod to housing pressures, officials will start considering owner-occupied housing costs in their supplementary measures of inflation.

The Bank of England last month indicated unease about the U.K. housing market. Norges Bank is another authority to have signaled it’s worried about the effect of ultra-low rates on the housing market and the risk of a build-up of financial imbalances.

Beginning of the End of Easy Money: Central Bank Quarterly Guide

The Bank for International Settlements used its annual report released last month to warn that house prices had risen more steeply during the pandemic than fundamentals would suggest, increasing the sector’s vulnerability if borrowing costs rise.

While the unwinding of pandemic-era is support is expected to be gradual for most central banks, how to do so without hurting mortgage holders will be a key challenge, according to Kazuo Momma, who used to be in charge of monetary policy at the Bank of Japan.

“Monetary policy is a blunt tool,” said Momma, who now works as an economist at Mizuho Research Institute. “If it is used for some specific purposes like restraining housing market activities, that could lead to other problems like overkilling the economic recovery.”

But not acting carries other risks. Analysis by Bloomberg Economics shows that housing markets are already exhibiting 2008 style bubble warnings, stoking warnings of financial imbalances and deepening inequality.

New Zealand, Canada and Sweden rank as the world’s frothiest housing markets, based on the key indicators used in the Bloomberg Economics dashboard focused on member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The U.K. and the U.S. are also near the top of the risk rankings.

As many economies still grapple with the virus or slow loan growth, central bankers may look for alternatives to interest-rate hikes such as changes to loan-to-value limits or risk weighting of mortgages — so called macro-prudential policy.

Yet such measures aren’t guaranteed to succeed because other dynamics like inadequate supply or government tax policies are important variables for housing too. And while ever cheap money is gushing from central banks, such measures are likely to struggle to rein in prices.

“The best approach would be to stop the further expansion of central bank balance sheets,” according to Gunther Schnabl of Leipzig University, who is an expert on international monetary systems. “As a second step, interest rates could be increased in a very slow and diligent manner over a long time period.”

Another possibility is that house prices reach a natural plateau. U.K. house prices, for example, fell for the first time in five months in June, a sign that the property market may have lost momentum as a tax incentive was due to come to an end.

There’s no sign of that in the U.S. though, where demand for homes remains strong despite record-high prices. Pending home sales increased across all U.S. regions in May, with the Northeast and West posting the largest gains.

While navigating the housing boom won’t be easy for central banks, it may not be too late to ward off the next crisis. Owner-occupy demand versus speculative buying remains a strong driver of growth. Banks aren’t showing signs of the kind of loose lending that preceded the global financial crisis, according to James Pomeroy, a global economist at HSBC Holdings Plc.

“If house prices are rising due to a shift in supply versus demand, which the pandemic has created due to more remote working and people wanting more space, it may not trigger a crisis in the same way as previous housing booms,” said Pomeroy. “The problems may arise further down the line, with younger people priced out of the property ladder even more.”

Read More:
A Housing Frenzy Sparks Bidding Wars From New York to Shenzhen

World’s Bubbliest Housing Markets Flash 2008 Style Warnings

Stimulus ‘Pandexit’ Is Next Challenge as Recovery Quickens

As they tip toe away from their crisis settings, monetary authorities in economies with heavily indebted households will need to be especially careful, said Alicia Garcia Herrero, chief economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis who used to work for the ECB and International Monetary Fund.

“Real estate prices, as with other asset prices, will continue to balloon as long as global liquidity remains so ample,” she said. “But the implications are much more severe than other asset prices as they affect households much more widely.”

— With assistance by Theophilos Argitis, and Peggy Collins

By:

Source: Global Boom in House Prices Becomes a Dilemma for Central Banks – Bloomberg

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Critics:

A housing bubble (or a housing price bubble) is one of several types of asset price bubbles which periodically occur in the market. The basic concept of a housing bubble is the same as for other asset bubbles, consisting of two main phases. First there is a period where house prices increase dramatically, driven more and more by speculation. In the second phase, house prices fall dramatically.

Housing bubbles tend to be among the asset bubbles with the largest effect on the real economy, because they are credit-fueled, because a large number of households participate and not just investors, and because the wealth effect from housing tends to be larger than for other types of financial assets.

References

  • Brunnermeier, M.K. and Oehmke, M. (2012) Bubbles, Financial Crises, and Systemic Risk NBER Working Paper No. 18398
  • see eg. Case, K.E., Quigley, J. and Shiller R. (2001). Comparing wealth effects: the stock market versus the housing market. National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 8606., Benjamin, J., Chinloy, P. and Jud, D. (2004). ”Real estate versus financial wealth in consumption”. In: Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics 29, pp. 341-354., Campbell, J. and J. Cocco (2004), How Do Housing Price Affect Consumption? Evidence from Micro Data. Harvard Institute of Economic Research, Discussion Paper No. 2045
  • Stiglitz, J.E. (1990). “Symposium on bubbles”. In: Journal of Economic Perspectives Vol. 4 No. 2, pp. 13-18.
  • Palgrave, R.H. I. (1926), “Palgrave’s Dictionary of Political Economy”, MacMillan & Co., London, England, p. 181.
  • Flood, R. P. and Hodrick, R. J. (1990), “On Testing for Speculative Bubbles”, The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 4 No. 2, pp. 85–101.
  • Shiller, R.J. (2005). Irrational Exuberance. 3nd. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691- 12335-7.
  • Smith, M. H. and Smith, G. (2006), “Bubble, Bubble, Where’s the Housing Bubble?”, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Vol. 2006 No. 1, pp. 1–50.
  • Cochrane, J. H. (2010), “Discount Rates”, Working paper, University of Chicago, Booth School of Business, and NBER, Chicago, Illinois, 27 December.Lind, H. (2009). “Price bubbles in housing markets: concept, theory and indicators”. In: International Journal of Housing Markets and Analysis Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 78-90.

The Symptoms of The Delta Variant Appear To Differ From Traditional COVID Symptoms. Here’s What To Look Out For

We’ve been living in a COVID world for more than 18 months now. At the outset of the pandemic, government agencies and health authorities scrambled to inform people on how to identify symptoms of the virus.

But as the virus has evolved, it seems the most common symptoms have changed too.

Emerging data suggest people infected with the Delta variant — the variant behind most of Australia’s current cases and highly prevalent around the world — are experiencing symptoms different to those we commonly associated with COVID earlier in the pandemic.


Read more: What’s the Delta COVID variant found in Melbourne? Is it more infectious and does it spread more in kids? A virologist explains

Clear explanations about the pandemic from a network of research experts

We’re all different

Humans are dynamic. With our differences come different immune systems. This means the same virus can produce different signs and symptoms in different ways.

A sign is something that’s seen, such as a rash. A symptom is something that’s felt, like a sore throat.

The way a virus causes illness is dependent on two key factors:

  • viral factors include things like speed of replication, modes of transmission, and so on. Viral factors change as the virus evolves.
  • host factors are specific to the individual. Age, gender, medications, diet, exercise, health and stress can all affect host factors.

So when we talk about the signs and symptoms of a virus, we’re referring to what is most common. To ascertain this, we have to collect information from individual cases.

It’s important to note this data is not always easy to collect or analyse to ensure there’s no bias. For example, older people may have different symptoms to younger people, and collecting data from patients in a hospital may be different to patients at a GP clinic.

So what are the common signs and symptoms of the Delta variant?

Using a self-reporting system through a mobile app, data from the United Kingdom suggest the most common COVID symptoms may have changed from those we traditionally associated with the virus.

The reports don’t take into account which COVID variant participants are infected with. But given Delta is predominating in the UK at present, it’s a safe bet the symptoms we see here reflect the Delta variant.


The Conversation, CC BY-ND

While fever and cough have always been common COVID symptoms, and headache and sore throat have traditionally presented for some people, a runny nose was rarely reported in earlier data. Meanwhile, loss of smell, which was originally quite common, now ranks ninth.

There are a few reasons we could be seeing the symptoms evolving in this way. It may be because data were originally coming mainly from patients presenting to hospital who were therefore likely to be sicker. And given the higher rates of vaccination coverage in older age groups, younger people are now accounting for a greater proportion of COVID cases, and they tend to experience milder symptoms.

It could also be because of the evolution of the virus, and the different characteristics (viral factors) of the Delta variant. But why exactly symptoms could be changing remains uncertain.


Read more: Coronavirus: how long does it take to get sick? How infectious is it? Will you always have a fever? COVID-19 basics explained


While we still have more to learn about the Delta variant, this emerging data is important because it shows us that what we might think of as just a mild winter cold — a runny nose and a sore throat — could be a case of COVID-19.

This data highlight the power of public science. At the same time, we need to remember the results haven’t yet been fully analysed or stratified. That is, “host factors” such as age, gender, other illnesses, medications and so on haven’t been accounted for, as they would in a rigorous clinical trial.

And as is the case with all self-reported data, we have to acknowledge there may be some flaws in the results.

Does vaccination affect the symptoms?

Although new viral variants can compromise the effectiveness of vaccines, for Delta, the vaccines available in Australia (Pfizer and AstraZeneca) still appear to offer good protection against symptomatic COVID-19 after two doses.



Importantly, both vaccines have been shown to offer greater than 90% protection from severe disease requiring hospital treatment.

A recent “superspreader” event in New South Wales highlighted the importance of vaccination. Of 30 people who attended this birthday party, reports indicated none of the 24 people who became infected with the Delta variant had been vaccinated. The six vaccinated people at the party did not contract COVID-19.

In some cases infection may still possible after vaccination, but it’s highly likely the viral load will be lower and symptoms much milder than they would without vaccination.

We all have a role to play

Evidence indicating Delta is more infectious compared to the original SARS-CoV-2 and other variants of the virus is building.

It’s important to understand the environment is also changing. People have become more complacent with social distancing, seasons change, vaccination rates vary — all these factors affect the data.

But scientists are becoming more confident the Delta variant represents a more transmissible SARS-CoV-2 strain.


Read more: What’s the difference between mutations, variants and strains? A guide to COVID terminology


As we face another COVID battle in Australia we’re reminded the war against COVID is not over and we all have a role to play. Get tested if you have any symptoms, even if it’s “just a sniffle”. Get vaccinated as soon as you can and follow public health advice.

By: Research Leader in Virology and Infectious Disease, Griffith University

Source: The symptoms of the Delta variant appear to differ from traditional COVID symptoms. Here’s what to look out for

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Critics:

Deltacoronavirus (Delta-CoV) is one of the four genera (Alpha-, Beta-, Gamma-, and Delta-) of coronaviruses. It is in the subfamily Orthocoronavirinae of the family Coronaviridae. They are enveloped, positive-sense, single-stranded RNA viruses. Deltacoronaviruses infect mostly birds and some mammals.

genesis

While the alpha and beta genera are derived from the bat viral gene pool, the gamma and delta genera are derived from the avian and pig viral gene pools.

Recombination appears to be common among deltacoronaviruses.Recombination occurs frequently in the viral genome region that encodes the host receptor binding protein. Recombination between different viral lineages contributes to the emergence of new viruses capable of interspecies transmission and adaptation to new animal hosts.

References

  1. Lau SKP, Wong EYM, Tsang CC, Ahmed SS, Au-Yeung RKH, Yuen KY, Wernery U, Woo PCY. Discovery and Sequence Analysis of Four Deltacoronaviruses from Birds in the Middle East Reveal Interspecies Jumping with Recombination as a Potential Mechanism for Avian-to-Avian and Avian-to-Mammalian Transmission. J Virol. 2018 Jul 17;92(15):e00265-18. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00265-18. Print 2018 Aug 1. PMID: 29769348

External links

Asia Becomes Epicenter of Market Fears Over Slowdown in Growth

Asia is emerging as the epicenter for investor worries over global growth and the spread of coronavirus variants. While their peers in the U.S. and Europe remain near record highs, Asian stocks have fallen back in recent months amid slowing Chinese economic growth and a glacial rollout of vaccines. The trend accelerated Friday with the benchmark MSCI Asia Pacific Index briefly erasing year-to-date gains for the second time in as many months.

“Asia was seen as the poster child in pandemic response last year, but this year the slow vaccination rollout in most countries combined with the arrival of the delta variant means another lost year,” said Mark Matthews, head of Asia research with Bank Julius Baer & Co. in Singapore. “I suspect Asia will continue to lag as long as vaccination rollouts remain at their relatively sluggish levels and high daily new Covid counts prevent them from lifting mobility restrictions.”

The growing jitters in the region comes as investor concerns shift from runaway inflation to an early withdrawal of stimulus by central banks. China’s authorities signaled earlier this week they may soon unleash more support for the economy, suggesting the world’s fastest-pandemic recovery may be weaker than it appears.

A fresh regulatory crackdown on Chinese tech stocks this week has also impacted investor sentiment in the region. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index fell briefly into a technical bear market Friday, led by weakness in the sector.

While Asia bore the brunt of the retreat in global equities, havens in other asset classes from Treasuries to the yen have rallied, and the rotation toward economically-sensitive cyclical stocks from their high-priced growth counterparts continued to unwind.

“It’s a sign of how challenging the reopening process is,” Marvin Loh, State Street senior global market strategist, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “What the PBOC is going through as well as these variants that keep popping up around the world shows it’s going to be an uneven process. Maybe a normalization tightening policy is not necessarily going to be as fluid.”

Covid Challenge

Covid 19 remains a key challenge. In Japan, Tokyo has declared a renewed state of emergency to combat the resurgent virus, banning spectators from the Olympics and pushing the Nikkei 225 Stock Average toward a correction. South Korea is intensifying social distancing measures in Seoul while Indonesia is battling a virus resurgence that has crippled its health system.

“Asian equities are being particularly impacted by the rebound in coronavirus cases in the region, fears about the impact of that on regional growth and concern that we may now have seen the best of the rebound globally,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy with AMP Capital Investors in Sydney. “Asian shares may have led the way on this but coronavirus concerns may also weigh on global shares generally.”

For the APAC region, recent trade deals will likely invigorate and deepen economic integration over the coming few years. In late 2020, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement after eight years of negotiation.

When fully implemented in 2022, RCEP will represent the world’s biggest trading bloc, covering about 30% of global GDP and trade. In addition, China concluded a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) with the EU on the last day of 2020. The EU is China’s second-largest trading partner and the CAI will cover broad market access, including to key sectors such as alternative energy vehicles and medical services.

Although these trade deals will not have an immediate economic impact, in the medium term the treaties should cement Asia as the world’s most dynamic economic bloc embracing free trade, investment and globalization. They should also help to counter the disruptive geopolitical tensions and encourage the post-pandemic economic recovery in Asia.

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Critics:
The economy of Asia comprises more than 4.5 billion people (60% of the world population) living in 49 different nations. Asia is the fastest growing economic region, as well as the largest continental economy by both GDP Nominal and PPP in the world. Moreover, Asia is the site of some of the world’s longest modern economic booms, starting from the Japanese economic miracle (1950–1990), Miracle on the Han River (1961–1996) in South Korea, economic boom (1978–2013) in China, Tiger Cub Economies (1990–present) in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, and Vietnam, and economic boom in India (1991–present).
 
As in all world regions, the wealth of Asia differs widely between, and within, states. This is due to its vast size, meaning a huge range of different cultures, environments, historical ties and government systems. The largest economies in Asia in terms of PPP gross domestic product (GDP) are China, India, Japan, Indonesia, Turkey, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Thailand and Taiwan and in terms of nominal gross domestic product (GDP) are China, Japan, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Taiwan, Thailand and Iran.
 
East Asian and ASEAN countries generally rely on manufacturing and trade (and then gradually upgrade to industry and commerce), and incrementally building on high-tech industry and financial industry for growth, countries in the Middle East depend more on engineering to overcome climate difficulties for economic growth and the production of commodities, principally Sweet crude oil.
 
Over the years, with rapid economic growth and large trade surplus with the rest of the world, Asia has accumulated over US$8.5 trillion of foreign exchange reserves – more than half of the world’s total, and adding tertiary and quaterny sectors to expand in the share of Asia‘s economy.

References

 

 

 

 

 

Will Covid Return When It Gets Colder?

In this week’s edition of the Covid Q&A, we look at what the cold weather might bring for the virus. In hopes of making this very confusing time just a little less so, each week Bloomberg Prognosis is picking one question sent in by readers and putting it to experts in the field. This week’s question comes to us from Rebecca in Albany, New York. She asks:

What will happen to infection rates in the U.S. when cold weather returns next fall?

While many parts of the world are still battling outbreaks of Covid-19, this summer in the U.S. it’s started to feel like the pandemic is over. Many states have completely done away with restrictions, and national case numbers are at their lowest levels since the pandemic began. But new, more contagious variants of the virus are on the rise, and there are regional pockets of vaccine holdouts that threaten to keep Covid in circulation.

All this suggests, unfortunately, is that it’s likely the U.S. isn’t done with the coronavirus just yet. “While it’s not purely a function of cooler temperature, Covid will rise again in the fall (if it doesn’t before),” says Andrew Noymer, a professor of public health at University of California, Irvine. “Covid’s future is as a seasonal disease in the fashion of influenza — and Covid’s future is now. Covid will be back in the fall or winter, or both.”

Without U.S. inoculation rates far higher than their current level, Noymer says, vaccines are unlikely to stop a cold-weather surge. “The vaccines will make the coming wave less severe than the one that crested in January 2021, but vaccination rates are currently not high enough to prevent another wave,” he says.

A resurgence was always likely, he says, but more contagious strains like the delta variant first identified in India may make the wave come sooner.  “Every major viral respiratory disease is seasonal with a winter dominance,” he says. “Influenza doesn’t vanish, and neither will Covid.”

Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington, said that projections by the school’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation show a slow rise in cases in early September that will pick up with winter and peak in late January or early February. How bad it gets, he says, will depend on vaccination coverage, the variants in circulation and whether people return to habits like mask-wearing.

Still, several Covid vaccines appear to be far more efficacious than those for the seasonal flu. That means that while we may see a resurgence of the coronavirus, the worst is still most likely behind us.

Track the virus

One in Five Young Adults Not Working, Studying 

Almost one in five young adults in the U.S. was neither working nor studying in the first quarter as Black and Hispanic youth remain idle at disproportionate rates. The increase last quarter appears to be driven largely by joblessness, while school attendance rose moderately as campuses started to reopen, according to the study. Young adults are still experiencing double-digit unemployment rates.

Inactive youth is a worrying sign for the future of the economy, as they don’t gain critical job skills to help realize their future earnings potential.

People will be interacting more often indoors in places with poor ventilation, which will increase the risk of transmission, says Mauricio Santillana, a mathematician at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, who models disease spread.

But even if there is a small seasonal effect, the main driver of increased spread will be the vast number of people who are still susceptible to infection, says Rachel Baker, an epidemiologist at Princeton University in New Jersey. That means people in places that are going into summer shouldn’t be complacent either, say researchers.

“By far the biggest factor that will affect the size of an outbreak will be control measures such as social distancing and mask wearing,” says Baker.

By:

Critics:

Evidence so far

Seasonal trends in viral infection are driven by multiple factors, including people’s behaviour and the properties of the virus — some don’t like hot, humid conditions.

Laboratory experiments reveal that SARS-CoV-2 favours cold, dry conditions, particularly out of direct sunlight. For instance, artificial ultraviolet radiation can inactivate SARS-CoV-2 particles on surfaces1 and in aerosols2, especially in temperatures of around 40 °C. Infectious virus also degrades faster on surfaces in warmer and more humid environments3. In winter, people tend to heat their houses to around 20 °C, and the air is dry and not well ventilated, says Dylan Morris, a mathematical biologist at Princeton. “Indoor conditions in the winter are pretty favourable to viral stability.”

To assess whether infections with a particular virus rise and fall with the seasons, researchers typically study its spread in a specific location, multiple times a year, over many years. But without the benefit of time, they have tried to study the seasonal contribution to SARS-CoV-2 transmission by looking at infection rates in various places worldwide.

A study4 published on 13 October looked at the growth in SARS-CoV-2 infections in the first four months of the pandemic, before most countries introduced controls. It found that infections rose fastest in places with less UV light, and predicted that, without any interventions, cases would dip in summer and peak in winter. In winter, “the risk goes up, but you can still dramatically reduce your risk by good personal behaviour”, says Cory Merow, an ecologist at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, and a co-author of the study. “The weather is a small drop in the pan.”

But Francois Cohen, an environmental economist at the University of Barcelona in Spain, says that testing was also quite limited early in the pandemic, and continues to be unreliable, so it is impossible to determine the effect of weather on the spread of the virus so far.

Baker has tried to tease apart the effect of climate on the seasonal pattern of cases during the course of a pandemic, using data about the humidity sensitivity of another coronavirus. She and her colleagues modelled5 the rise and fall in infection rates over several years for New York City with and without a climate effect, and with different levels of control measures.

They found that a small climate effect can result in substantial outbreaks when the seasons change if control measures are only just managing to contain the virus. “That could be a location where climate might nudge you over,” Baker says. The team posted its results on the preprint server medRxiv on 10 September; the authors suggest that stricter control measures might be needed during winter to reduce the risk of outbreaks.

In the future

If SARS-CoV-2 can survive better in cold conditions, it’s still difficult to disentangle that contribution from the effect of people’s behaviour, says Kathleen O’Reilly, a mathematical epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Flu has been around for hundreds of years and the specific mechanism as to why you have peaks of flu in the winter is still poorly understood,” says O’Reilly.

And even if researchers had more reliable data for SARS-CoV-2, they would see only small or negligible seasonal effects so early in the pandemic, when much of the population is still susceptible, says Relman.

Over time, however, seasonal effects could play a more important part in driving infection trends, as more people build up immunity to the virus. This could take up to five years through natural infection, or less if people are vaccinated, says Baker.

But whether a seasonal pattern emerges at all, and what it will look like, will depend on many factors that are yet to be understood, including how long immunity lasts, how long recovery takes and how likely it is that people can be reinfected, says Colin Carlson, a biologist who studies emerging diseases at Georgetown University in Washington DC.

What you should read

Source: Will Covid Return When It Gets Colder? – Bloomberg

.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in misinformation and conspiracy theories about the scale of the pandemic and the origin, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the disease. False information, including intentional disinformation, has been spread through social media, text messaging,and mass media. Journalists have been arrested for allegedly spreading fake news about the pandemic. False information has also been propagated by celebrities, politicians, and other prominent public figures. The spread of COVID-19 misinformation by governments has also been significant.

Commercial scams have claimed to offer at-home tests, supposed preventives, and “miracle” cures. Several religious groups have claimed their faith will protect them from the virus. Without evidence, some people have claimed the virus is a bioweapon accidentally or deliberately leaked from a laboratory, a population control scheme, the result of a spy operation, or the side effect of 5G upgrades to cellular networks.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared an “infodemic” of incorrect information about the virus that poses risks to global health.While belief in conspiracy theories is not a new phenomenon, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, this can lead to adverse health effects. Cognitive biases, such as jumping to conclusions and confirmation bias, may be linked to the occurrence of conspiracy beliefs.

See also

Sage Modelling Warns of Risk of ‘Substantial’ Covid Third Wave

Event image

New modelling for the government’s Sage committee of experts has highlighted the risk of a “substantial third wave” of infections and hospitalizations, casting doubt on whether the next stage of Boris Johnson’s Covid roadmap can go ahead as planned on 21 June.

Government sources suggested the outlook was now more pessimistic but stressed that a decision would be taken after assessing a few more days’ worth of data on the effect that rising infections are having on hospitalizations.

The prime minister is due to announce on Monday whether the lifting of the remaining restrictions – nicknamed “freedom day” by anti-lockdown Tory MPs – will have to be delayed.

Johnson is understood to be personally frustrated at the prospect of delaying the reopening, but a No 10 source said there were now clearly signs for concern in the data.

Key ministers and officials are expected to discuss a range of options on Sunday, when Johnson will still be hosting the G7, including a two- to four-week delay, as well as the possibility of a watered-down reopening that keeps some rules in place.

A Whitehall source said it was “broadly correct” that the outlook was now more pessimistic. “Cases are obviously higher and they are growing quickly,” the source said.

Prof Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, said modelling updated this week suggested there was a risk of a surge in infections and hospitalizations that could rival the second wave in January.

Johnson sounded markedly less confident than in recent days when he was asked about the case for a delay as he visited a wind farm in Cornwall on Wednesday as part of the buildup to the G7 summit.

“What everyone can see very clearly is that cases are going up and in some cases hospitalizations are going up,” he said. “I think what we need to assess is the extent to which the vaccine rollout, which has been phenomenal, has built up enough protection in the population in order for us to go ahead to the next stage.

“And so that’s what we’ll be looking at. And there are arguments being made one way or the other, but that will be driven by the data. We’ll be looking at that and we’ll be setting it out on Monday.”

The prime minister had previously repeatedly said he had seen nothing in the data to justify a delay.

Ferguson said the cases of the Delta variant were now doubling in less than a week, close to what was seen before Christmas when the Alpha variant took hold and sent infections soaring in January to a daily peak of 68,000. What is unclear is how long the doubling will continue with so many adults vaccinated, and what proportion of new cases will turn into hospitalizations and deaths.

“There is a risk of a substantial third wave,” Ferguson said. “It could be substantially lower than the second wave or it could be of the same order of magnitude, and that critically depends on how effective the vaccines are at protecting people against hospitalization and death.”

He suggested there may be a case for postponing the reopening to get more shots into arms and reduce the size of any summer surge. “Clearly you have to be more cautious if you want measures to be irreversibly changed and relaxed,” he said. “Having a delay does make a difference. It allows more people to get second doses.”

Ministers have been encouraged by the enthusiasm with which younger people are taking up the opportunity to get their jab. The NHS announced that 1 million people had booked appointments through its website on Tuesday as eligibility was extended to 25- to 29-year-olds.

The next two to three weeks will be crucial for scientists on Sage to work out what the rise in hospitalizations – and potentially deaths – might look like in the months ahead.

Ferguson said: “One of the key things we want to resolve in the next few weeks is do we see an uptick in hospitalizations – we are seeing it in some areas – matching the cases, and what is the ratio between the two, because vaccination has substantially changed that.”

Evidence is firming up around the Delta variant being 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant, with estimates ranging from 40% and 80%. The variant is somewhat resistant to vaccines, particularly after one dose.

While Ferguson believes we may see fewer deaths in the third wave compared with in January, the latest modelling does not rule out what he called a “disastrous” third wave if transmission and vaccine resistance are at the higher end of the best estimates.

The latest official data showed 7,540 new confirmed cases of the virus in England. Hospitalizations are not yet rising sharply nationwide, though they are surging in hotspot areas including Greater Manchester.

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said trusts in hard-hit areas were confirming that the vaccines provide good protection against the virus.

“There is a growing sense that thanks to the vaccine, the chain seen in previous waves between rising infections and high rates of hospital admissions and deaths has been broken. That feels very significant,” he wrote in a blogpost for the British Medical Journal.

But Hopson warned that the NHS was already “running hot” in many areas, and an increase in Covid admissions would set back efforts to tackle the long backlog of treatment for other health problems that has been caused by the crisis.

By:, and

Source: Sage modelling warns of risk of ‘substantial’ Covid third wave | Health policy | The Guardian

.

Critics:

Recommended preventive measures include social distancing, wearing face masks in public, ventilation and air-filtering, hand washing, covering one’s mouth when sneezing or coughing, disinfecting surfaces, and monitoring and self-isolation for people exposed or symptomatic. Several vaccines have been developed and widely distributed since December 2020.

Current treatments focus on addressing symptoms, but work is underway to develop medications that inhibit the virus. Authorities worldwide have responded by implementing travel restrictions, lockdowns and quarantines, workplace hazard controls, and business closures. Numerous jurisdictions have also worked to increase testing capacity and trace contacts of the infected.

The pandemic has resulted in significant global social and economic disruption, including the largest global recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It has led to widespread supply shortages exacerbated by panic buying, agricultural disruption, and food shortages. However, there have also been decreased emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases.

Numerous educational institutions and public areas have been partially or fully closed, and many events have been cancelled or postponed. Misinformation has circulated through social media and mass media, and political tensions have been exacerbated. The pandemic has raised issues of racial and geographic discrimination, health equity, and the balance between public health imperatives and individual rights.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in misinformation and conspiracy theories about the scale of the pandemic and the origin, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the disease. False information, including intentional disinformation, has been spread through social media, text messaging, and mass media. Journalists have been arrested for allegedly spreading fake news about the pandemic. False information has also been propagated by celebrities, politicians, and other prominent public figures. The spread of COVID-19 misinformation by governments has also been significant.

Commercial scams have claimed to offer at-home tests, supposed preventives, and “miracle” cures. Several religious groups have claimed their faith will protect them from the virus. Without evidence, some people have claimed the virus is a bioweapon accidentally or deliberately leaked from a laboratory, a population control scheme, the result of a spy operation, or the side effect of 5G upgrades to cellular networks.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared an “infodemic” of incorrect information about the virus that poses risks to global health. While belief in conspiracy theories is not a new phenomenon, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, this can lead to adverse health effects. Cognitive biases, such as jumping to conclusions and confirmation bias, may be linked to the occurrence of conspiracy beliefs.

See also

References

Why You Might Feel The Urge To Overspend As The Pandemic Winds Down

I had a budget on the day I looked up when my favorite outdoor venue would again open for concerts.Yes, I had a financial plan in place when I saw the words “Tame Impala rescheduled” and felt a memory flash of standing in a crowd listening to that same band, on that same stage.

Yes, though I have a financial accountability coach, I lost consciousness and came to 90 seconds later with a two-Tame-Impala-ticket-sized hole in my budget. Yes, I am concerned.

After this year of no — no festivals, no plays, no shopping in stores without concern for a deadly virus — “no you can’t” is slowly transforming, with 60 percent of adults in the US now having at least one dose of the vaccine, to “yes you can.” Many of us, regardless of disposable income levels, will and will and will, budgets be damned, if we don’t prepare for the powerful emotions about to swoop through our experience-deprived brains.

Our minds, it turns out, are not spreadsheets. That’s the idea behind behavioral economics, the fairly new field that studies how humans operate around this invention we call money. Unlike previous thinking from the field of economics, our decisions don’t come from formulas, but a mishmash of the feelings, reactions, and mental shortcuts whittled by evolution to keep us alive in the wild, within small tribes, without consideration for targeted Instagram ads for peep-toe espadrilles.

Behavioral economics has identified more than 100 ways people of all financial backgrounds fail to think straight when it comes to money. And as the pandemic shifts in the US, our thinking is about to get much blurrier. Our minds, it turns out, are not spreadsheets

One reigning factor that stands out as a determinant of how we behave is where we fall on the spectrum of cold state to hot state. Ever been hangry? That’s a hot state. Seen a thirst trap? Hot state. It’s when emotions like fear or exhaustion take over.

“What has been building up for a year and what is about to be released is an enormous amount of pressure,” said Brooke Struck, research director at the Decision Lab, a behavioral design think tank. “We are all about to enter a massive hot state, more or less at the same time.”

Hot states aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They can be, as Struck describes them, some of the richest experiences we have. They’re intense and powerful, and they exacerbate other biases. They reduce us to something less like adults and more like toddlers.

“If you think you can talk yourself out of a hot state,” said Struck, “you don’t understand a hot state.”

In Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, he describes our cold, higher thinking as slow thinking, and the hot thinking I did (or didn’t do) before buying those tickets as fast thinking. They’re not discrete, explains Struck, but a wrestling match inside our brains.

“That’s where humanity lives. We’re all struggling with these two things at the same time, all the time,” he said. “So when you see those tickets, what comes to mind is this extremely vivid, positive memory of having been in that place and having that experience … you just have this overwhelming desire of I want.”

The tsunami of want that’s about to crash over us as the country reopens is going to be, as Struck says, very dangerous for our budgets. The hot states will strike intensely, perhaps set off by songs, smells, or the sight of a cafe where you used to meet up for lunch with the friends you haven’t hugged in a year. He talks about it as though we’re all about to get very drunk, and the only thing we can do is make sure we put away the sharp objects ahead of time.

A drunk person, for example, isn’t known to carefully consider the future repercussions of their actions. Similarly, hot states exacerbate our present bias, which makes us overvalue what we have now and devalue what that stranger known as us in the future will have, a trait familiar to anyone with vacation credit card debt.

If you think this doesn’t apply to you and you’ll be fine, that could be your restraint bias talking, the bias that makes you overestimate your ability to resist impulsive behavior. If you think that because you’ve been so good, perhaps by spending an entire year wearing your mask and forgoing public displays of Bon Jovi karaoke, you deserve to be a little bad now, that’s moral licensing. It’s the bias that serves as a little devil on your shoulder, convincing you you’re still doing good, even if you sin just a bit.

You might want to watch out for the bandwagon effect, where you jump into the Roaring Reopening spending just because all the cool kids are doing it, in your real friend group and in the groups you just watch on your social media feeds. Worse, there won’t be a designated financial driver among us, because though our experiences have varied widely, with many Americans continuing to work in public during lockdown, chances are that nearly everyone you know will have some kind of wild emotions about the opportunity to gather in a bar booth, enjoy a funny movie in a sea of IRL laughter, or dance in a laser-light crowd of fellow humans.

(Though of course, there will be some who are so traumatized by the last year that they’ll hold on to everything they have, the same way Nana saves the used Glad Press’n Seal bits because of how she was shaped by the Great Depression.) But we can work with these biases, says Amanda Clayman, financial therapist and host of Financial Therapy. We just have to understand them first. “With awareness comes an opportunity for self-agency,” she says.

Biases didn’t evolve to trip us up. They originally came about to help us. “Just the idea of a cognitive ‘bias,’ I think it’s a bit pejorative. It’s a shortcut. And when we call it a bias, it’s just us identifying where we consistently run into problems,” Clayman told me. “I think we should have as much affection and humor for these cognitive biases as we can.”

One of these mental shortcuts we can admire like a bumbling toddler is our availability bias: the illusion that the more we see something, the more likely it is to occur, and the less we see something, the scarcer it is. The scarcer we sense something is, the higher we value it.

“Our sense of availability has been really reset. You acted as if a concert ticket is completely scarce because your availability heuristic has been reset around when something is going to be an option,” said Clayman. “Our entire sense of what is available when and what is normal has been skewed by this experience.”

You know who has studied your biases? Marketers. And they know exactly where to poke them. Clayman adds that capitalist society trains us from an early age to think that if we have a negative feeling, we can find a product to fix it. We’re all going to be tempted to “solve” the trauma of the last year, as if a wild night at Target on the credit card could cheer us right up after living through a plague that’s killed more than 3 million people and continues to rage in many parts of the world.

She says that what we’ll really need is human connection, safe spaces to talk about what we’ve gone through, and the uncomfortable experience of sitting with our feelings. Without processing the emotions of the last year, we’ll just try to shovel fun, novelty, and pleasure into the pit, and the expense is going to add up before we realize it’s not working.

Natasha Knox, a certified financial planner and chair of business development for the Financial Therapy Association, says to listen for the moral licensing words, “I deserve it because …” It might be because you’ve been through so much or you’ve worked so hard.

“This sort of permission-giving has truth to it. It is true, collectively we have been through a lot and many people do work really hard,” said Knox. “You’re not wrong. You do deserve it. But then there’s future you. What does that person deserve?”

In order to reconnect and enjoy a bit more freedom while also protecting your future self, start setting aside some cash now that is, as Knox describes it, “safe to spend” without putting yourself in financial danger. Then create some cooling space between you and spending. Unsubscribe from all those sale emails. Turn off one-click pay. Don’t save your credit card in your web browser. Try to wait 24 hours before buying something unplanned. Most importantly, keep close the deeper reasons you don’t want to go financially wild (whatever that means to you) over the next few months, in addition to simply not causing yourself more stress and chaos.

“It really does have to boil down to that first, because if we’re just denying ourselves for no reason, that’s not sustainable and it usually doesn’t work,” said Knox. “The bigger why has to be front and center. Because it’s hard, and it’s been a terrible year.”

She recommends finding a photo that represents something you’re working toward getting a year to a few years out and making that your phone’s home screen or otherwise keeping it close. “When something has been as dramatic as this year, the longer-term picture gets a little fuzzy,” Knox said, “So we have to bring that back into focus.”

Like biases, spending itself is not a bad thing. I’m happy to support the venue, the band, and even, if they open in time, Scott and Cindi, the owners of the nearby private campground, whom I’ve been worried about because I watched their business grow for so many years. This is an inextricable truth: Our spending is part of what will alleviate the Covid-19-inflicted financial suffering of our fellow humans. Consumer spending constitutes about 70 percent of the GDP, after all. So I’ll spend, but, knowing what I know now, I’ll spend as slowly as I can, at places I care about, tentatively finding ways to enjoy the new normal, and without causing another crisis for myself.

Paulette Perhach writes about creativity, finances, tech, psychology, and anything else that inspires awe for places like the New York Times, Elle, and Glamour. She posts regularly at WelcomeToTheWritersLife.com.

Source: Why you might feel the urge to overspend as the pandemic winds down – Vox

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What Is Financial Therapy?

Financial therapy merges finance with emotional support to help people cope with financial stress. Financial advisors must often provide therapy to clients in order to help them make logical monetary decisions and deal with any financial issues they might be facing.

Breaking Down Financial Therapy

Money plays a large role in a person’s overall well-being, and the stresses of managing money and dealing with financial pitfalls can take a huge toll on one’s emotional health. If left uncontrolled, this emotional burden can spread into other areas of a person’s life. Just as with any other form of therapy that addresses other aspects of a person’s life, financial therapy provides support and advice geared specifically toward the financial realm and the stresses that go along with it. The end goal is to get a person’s finances in order and provide the necessary advice to keep them in order.

Financial Therapy Reasoning

There are a range of reasons why a person would seek out or need financial therapy. In many cases, behavioral issues cause a person to adapt unhealthy financial routines, including unhealthy spending habits (such as gambling or compulsive shopping), overworking oneself to hoard money, completely avoiding financial issues that must be dealt with, or hiding finances from a partner. Often, bad saving, spending, or working habits are a symptom of other bad habits related to mental or physical health.

Financial Therapy vs. Other Types of Therapy

The most effective forms of financial therapy involve a collaboration between a person’s financial advisor and a licensed therapist or specialist. Both the financial advisor and the therapist have unique qualifications that the other does not possess. Because of this, it’s hard for one to provide complete financial therapy support, and trying to do so could potentially steer a person in the wrong direction and violate ethical codes. However, financial advisors often find themselves providing informal therapy to clients, and therapists often deal with emotional issues related to financial stress.

Financial advisors are well-versed on their clients’ specific situations and are able to advise on the best courses of action. They’re able to share their expertise in the hopes of alleviating the financial burdens their clients face. However, therapy is not a financial advisor’s area of expertise, and if a person requires real emotional support or needs help breaking bad habits, a licensed professional should be involved. The financial advisor tends to be more adept at providing advice on how best to move forward with financial issues, while the licensed professional can provide support that gets to the root of a deeper problem.

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