COVID19 mini-update, Perseid Meteor Shower Day edition: Israeli PM nixes 4th lockdown; sitrep from Japan

(a) “My heart bleeds for everyone who lost a loved one to COVID; it also bleeds for every small business owner who sees their life’s work destroyed by lockdowns”. Thus [translation mine] spoke Israeli PM Naftali Bennett at a press conference.

Instead, NIS 2.5 billion will allocated for 2,000 permanent hospital staff slots at all levels — since I know Israeli public hospitals to be chronically understaffed[*], this will have benefits well beyond the COVID era. The hospitals are told to brace for a large wave of more delta variant severe cases “until the booster shots campaign does its job”. The latter is presently limited to age 60 and over, as well as the immunocompromised — but the campaign may be expanded to the 45-60 age bracket soon, at which point I will get my own booster. (Mrs. Arbel is in a risk group so got hers early.)

Intriguingly, several sources have told me about first-time vaccinees now being given Moderna instead of Pfizer, at least at Clalit (the largest of the four licensed HMOs). While Moderna is based on the same mRNA technology as Pfizer, I yesterday linked to an intriguing preprint according to which a 1st Moderna shot is significantly more protective against the delta variant than a 1st Pfizer shot.

Summarizing an internal report I have seen down to an elevator pitch: the epidemiologists who wrote it assume Israel will follow trends in the UK, with a sharp further rise in cases (delta is undeniably faster spreading, and Israel is very densely populated) followed by an almost equally steep drop when the new herd immunity threshold is approaching. Moreover (as the Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz openly said in an interview), we may be facing several more variant waves in the future and going in lockdown every time is simply not a realistic approach.

Unlike in the US, say, where enthusiasm for lockdowns and restrictions is mostly the province of one of the two major parties and opposition to them that for another, both attitudes run across the political spectrum here — plus our medical establishment stays clear of partisan politics, and our rotating ‘COVID czars’ come from the trenches rather than government bureaucracy (e.g., Roni Gamzu MD went back to being the CEO of Tel-Aviv’s largest hospital, his successor was the head of the IDF Medical Corps, and the current incumbent is on leave from his position as CEO of Sieff Hospital in Tzfat/Safed). This makes a rational discussion possible about matters that immediately become shouting matches and “180-ism” in the USA.[**]

(b) What about Japan? “Masgramondou”, a.k.a. “Micronetia” posted a very long and detailed sitrep from the rural Japanese prefecture where he lives.

Japan has been able to cope, even in dense metropolitan areas like Tokyo, without heavy lockdowns. Mask-wearing, quibbles about its usefulness aside, is a cultural norm in general during epidemics or when ill — not a “hill to die upon” pro and con, the way it (exasperatingly) is in the US — but it’s not universally practiced and apparently not really enforced. Strict hygiene is part and parcel of life to begin with, and perhaps a degree of physical distance that one doesn’t see in, say, Mediterranean countries.

But Masgramondou points especially to the low percentage of cases that turn severe. After all, 10,000 cases of mild COVID is just a nuisance, but 600 severe cases out of 10,000 is a local health crisis.

Why such a low incidence of severe cases in Japan? Masgramondou points to several factors: very few obese people (except for sumo wrestlers), (relatedly) low incidence of diabetes, seniors staying active and outdoorsy for as long as possible, and hence vitamin D deficiency fairly rare,…

(c) speaking of severe cases: aside from Nadir Arber’s Exo-CD24 “cytokine storm blocker” that cured 93% of serious COVID patients in a clinical trial in Greece (at the time the clinical trial started, Israel had too few severe cases for a statistically meaningful trial), the Health Ministry has now given permission for expanded use of MesenCure, which gets about nine out of ten severe patients out of the hospital. More and faster, please.

(d) Finally, as for the variant that is especially dangerous to women and nursing home residents, the AndrewCuomo variant, Powerline posted a midweek special “Cuomo schadenfreude edition” of their This Week In Pictures.

Part of the funnies are the cringeworthy headlines drooling over The Ghoul. Tim Pool regrets that Cuomo ends up resigning over his personal foibles rather than over shipping COVID patients back to nursing homes (leading to many thousands of unnecessary deaths). So did Mrs. Arbel: I could not help recalling Al Capone, who was finally put in the clink over tax violations that were positively tame compared to his organized crime activities — but on which it was much easier to secure a conviction in court.

[*] This is one reason we, and most who can afford it, carry private supplemental insurance. As socialized medical systems go, Israel’s is possibly the most cost-effective in the world, but even here, it’s fraying at the edges.

[**] It isn’t like we lack shouting matches and kneejerk “he does this, so we do the exact opposite” — but here this tends to be on such matters of existential importance as a prayer service at the Western Wall led by a female rabbi [non-Orthodox, obviously]. We are quite capable of broad consensus, however grudgingly, when facing existential threats. This even applies to Jewish-Arab relations — Jewish and Arab medical personnel understand quite clearly that the virus does not care whether you wear an Islamic headscarf, an Orthodox Jewish skullcap, or neither.

ADDENDUM: what about mind viruses more insidious than COVID (as spotted by Damon Linker, retweeted by the Jerusalem Post staff).


My theory that the seeds of radical environmentalism and wokebaggery are psychological warfare by space aliens who want to ensure our species never expands from Sol III seems ever more compelling.

3 thoughts on “COVID19 mini-update, Perseid Meteor Shower Day edition: Israeli PM nixes 4th lockdown; sitrep from Japan

  1. In re the lack of obesity etc. If you read the Japanese press a few years ago you saw all sorts of Japanese public health people talking about an obesity crisis, “metabolic syndrome”, blah blah blah. They may be right that Japanese are less healthy than they used to be (thoughI’m not sure this is the case, I suspect it is more they are less healthy in some ways and more healthy in others) but compared to other developed nations they certainly are more healthy with lower incidence of diabetes, morbid obesity etc. In fact now that I’ve been stuck in Japan for 18 months, when I see British or American (or indeed any non Asian) TV I think everyone is fat.

    One reason is that, as with New York, most people in the dense urban areas have to use public transport to get anywhere because they don’t own a car. Even a simple train journey involves you walking (cycling) to the station, climbing up amd down steps to get to the platform and the same at the other end. Do that two times a day and you’ve done the 20 minutes exercise the experts say is a minimum requirement. In the countryside it is different but the people in the countryside tend to be gardening or doing the standard part-time farming thing so they are also active quite a lot of the time.

  2. And in ore Japan news –

    First thing to note here is that Japan is using hotels that are otherwise severely underused if not empty as expansion covid wards for those that aren’t too badly affected

    Second interesting drug cocktail used to help keep the symptoms low.

    Third, not mentioned is the presence or not of pulse O2 meters. I recall you bloggin about Israel was just giving them to everyone, I’d think that would be an easy thing for Japan to do too

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