The Taliban’s back. The West has been vanguished. We all read the media. There wasn’t anything else to read.
I was surprised to learn that total UK deaths in the last 20 years in Afghanistan numbered less than 500. Total USA deaths: under 2400 (fewer than 1900 as a result of hostile action – leaving me shuddering about the other 500). A lot of treasure but not, in the scheme of things (compared to, say, road traffic, alcohol, let alone covid-19), that much blood. For reference, the UK lost 258 people in the Falkland conflict, 47 in the Gulf War and 179 in the Iraq War.
In the business press there is a lot of talk of supply chain shortages. Pictures of empty shelves. Tales of shortages of lorry drivers. Rampant inflation. I don’t see these things in evidence around me but what you see on the internet can’t be wrong.
London is starting to feel a little bit like normal. People wearing masks are a frequent sight – though almost always on a voluntary basis. Restaurants are filling up. I haven’t used the Tube in over a month but carriages are now sometimes standing room only again. People are getting covid but it is starting to feel like a nasty cold / flu / etc – nobody is panicking.
In the UK, July 19th was long-awaited (and once postponed) ‘freedom day’. Or, as the FT aptly renamed it, ‘surrender day’. Despite rapidly rising cases, and technocrats loudly reminding people that unlocking was not ‘following the science’, the UK removed many restrictions on July 19th.
At the time of writing, this move appears to be paying off. While it is too soon to judge the impact of a policy enacted only 12 days ago – given the lags in the virus’ severest impacts – the case count has in any event been falling for a week. Over 90% of UK adults now have antibodies, and the role that children have in spreading the virus remains unclear (paywall link here).
The average age of people with cases is around 25 – and people with 2 jabs almost entirely escape intensive care, let alone the morgue. In my local neighbourhood the case count has just hit an all-time high, but the hospitals remain relatively unaffected.
London remains distinctly subdued. But with last week’s opening of the borders to fully vaccinated EU/USA visitors, the tourist trade should start to pick up.
June saw the return of Covid in a big way for London and the UK.
While in much of Europe/USA, a covid case is now a rarity, in the UK case numbers are up dramatically – 20-fold in my part of London for instance (see graph below). The Delta variant now accounts for >90% of the cases and, wow, does it spread easily. Other countries, notably Australia, will almost certainly have some of this to come – but you hear it from London first.
The UK is aiming to outrun the Delta variant by vaccinating. The complication with this plan is that you need two jabs to have even a hope of avoiding Delta, and if you have AstraZeneca than your hope is only a 60% hope even with 2 jabs. A virus with an underlying reproductive factor of 8 laughs at protection of only 60% – reducing 8 by 60% leaves the Delta variant with the same reproductive ratio as the original Covid-19 variant.