Failing The Test

“The pandemic is a test and the world is failing,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday, in the course of warning that “19 months into the pandemic, and seven months since the first vaccines were approved, we are in the early stages of another wave of infections and deaths.”

It was a dour assessment and it came during an address to the International Olympic Committee In Tokyo, which recorded the most new COVID cases in six months on Wednesday. 1,832 was the highest daily figure since January 16 and the sixth-highest daily total ever for the capital (figure below).

“Health experts warned Wednesday of a possible ‘critical’ coronavirus situation in Tokyo, as they estimated infections could surge even further in early August during the Olympics,” The Japan Times noted, adding that advisors to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government “said the seven-day moving average of new infections in the capital could reach 2,600 per day as of August 3 if the virus continues to spread at the current pace, a worse scenario than in the third wave that swept across Tokyo in the winter.”

Tedros implored the Japanese government to ensure cases associated with the Olympics “are identified, isolated, traced and cared for as quickly as possible.”

Initially, Japan’s vaccine rollout was less than robust. Although the campaign has gathered steam of late, just 23% of Japanese are fully vaccinated.

On Wednesday, shares of Japanese homebuilder Tama Home dove in Tokyo (figure below) following a report suggesting the firm’s president threatened to ban vaccinated employees from working. “No matter what the world says, I’m against vaccination!” Shinya Tamaki, who took the company reins from his father in 2018, allegedly said, during a virtual meeting with executives.

Sources who spoke to Shukan Bunshun said that during another online presentation, Tamaki warned that people who get the vaccine “will die five years later.” (Maybe Tamaki saw “The Ring” too many times.)

Tama denied the report, of course, calling it “completely untrue.” As Bloomberg noted, “vaccinations carried out at workplaces have become a core component of Japan’s COVID-19 response.”

Meanwhile, Wednesday’s narrative du jour revolved around the notion that market participants are temporarily transfixed with earnings and thus too busy to panic about the Delta variant. “A slew of corporate earnings took the focus off concerns about the economic impact of coronavirus flareups,” Bloomberg said.

That’s obviously ridiculous. Risk was buoyant because, generally speaking, traders (carbon-based and otherwise) were still sorting through the wreckage of Monday’s egregious slide and otherwise deciding whether US yields have found a floor or not. Nobody woke up Wednesday and thought “There are just too many Q2 calls today, I don’t have the luxury of worrying about COVID mutations like I did on Monday.”

In any event, Netflix reported 1.54 million paid adds for last quarter, which was more than the 1.12 million analysts expected (figure below).

The bad news is, this quarter’s forecast was just 3.5 million, well below the 5.9 million Wall Street wants to see.

Who knows, maybe that’s actually good news for the world. If binge-watching TV shows from the couch is synonymous with the pandemic, then fewer people parked in their living rooms might be a positive sign from a re-opening perspective.

In the same remarks cited here at the outset, the WHO’s Tedros bemoaned unequal access to vaccines and a “two-track pandemic,” which he called a “horrifying injustice.”

After noting that 75% of vaccines have been administered in just 10 countries (!), Tedros lamented “a moral outrage,” which he called “epidemiologically and economically self-defeating.”


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6 thoughts on “Failing The Test

  1. Infections in NY State up 154% since June 30. Anecdotally, most are of the mild variety, but, as in the first 2-3 waves, hospitalization rates and deaths are rising. An analogy for how we (the world) are handling COVID might be: Like the NY Jets of public health.

  2. Speaking of jets, I was on a five hour flight Monday. Every seat occupied. I drew the short straw, as the passenger next to me never went 3 minutes without coughing throughout the flight. Wore my mask tight for the whole flight except for quick sips of water. Spent a lot of time standing in the back, but we had a lot of turbulence so I was required to be in the seat for much of the flight. The most interesting aspect of it was that nobody else around the coughing passenger seemed to care. The passenger on the other side, who was not traveling with the coughing passenger, in fact spent most of the flight with their mask down under their chin.

    Seemed to me emblematic of how, as The Who director says, we’re failing the test.

    1. Airlines received whole piles of money in order to survive this crises. If they refuse to make passengers follow the rules (and ware facemasks) they should refund the large amounts !!!!

  3. The words of the WHO director general give me pause. Bottom line, folks: As long as a preponderance of virus exists unaddressed across across the world, those viruses will mutate. That’s what they do. The Delta variant is only the current version of the ongoing existential threat we face. Virus mutations evolve as we speak in places where effective vaccines remain unavailable. As we continue to open economies around the world, additional mutations will likely haunt us all for some time to come to the extent they are not addressed. I’m hoping to queue up for a booster shot soon, once it is agreed and approved. I’m not an authority on this. Just concerned. I reckon drug companies will make more money by creating variations of current treatments to address future variants. But long term, it’s distinctly possible we won’t actually beat this viral beast, only minimize it. Just sayin’…

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