Second Waves

What we’re seeing is almost every country experiencing rises in infection rates as soon as they lift restrictions, unless they’ve managed complete elimination. And even then, New Zealand after – what, four months without any cases? – has recorded a four new cases and had to lockdown Auckland hard and the rest of the country to level 2. 

NZ Case In Point:

Over 100 days of zero cases. The family of four that tested positive have no known links to overseas nor to the hotels where incoming travellers quarantine for two weeks on arrival. That gives only a very few possible sources:

  1. Most likely, that some live coronavirus has remained active on a surface that hasn’t been touched or sanitised for almost a hundred days. 
    1. That implies that a hard HARD lockdown would have to be maintained for over four months to ensure that all traces of the virus become unviable. 
    2. We don’t know exactly how long the virions can remain viable and infectious, we only know their average half lives, the time it takes for the number of infectious virions in a given space to halve. 
  2. Second most likely, is that a recent hotel quarantee
    (my new word for
    “someone who has undergone a quarantine period”
    so I don’t have to keep typing
    “someone who has undergone a quarantine period”
    “someone who has undergone a quarantine period”
    is such a handful to type..)
    may have brought in active virions on their possessions.
    1. This implies that our sanitisation procedures are still too lax or prone to human error in application.
    2. Whether that may have been due to an item of clothing shrink wrapped months ago (i.e. such as a souvenir handkerchief bought before entry to the country but packed by an infected gift shop worker elsewhere) or something that just plain didn’t get UV-irradiated long enough before it was allowed to leave the hotel, the fact is that there are VERY strict protocols required for completely sterilising and quarantining and we just plain and simple can’t cover (nor even imagine) all the possible angles.
    3. The fact remains that SARS-CoV-2 may be a far hardier virus than we’re giving it credit for.
  3. The recent quarantee themselves may have stopped testing positive for COVID-19 but as we know many people who tested clean can still have a return of the disease later. 
    1. The virus may well have a dormant phase (similar to malaria) where it’s undetectable but still present.
    2. The proud owner of dormant SARS-CoV-2 may not even be aware that it’s become active again because they’ve developed immunity so they’ll be asymptomatic but still shedding virus.
  4. Less likely is that a relative of the family (and that lives in a fairly isolated situation) may have had contact with the grandparent who first tested positive and while they were asymptomatic themselves, still infectious.
  5. Even less likely is that the virus had made the jump to a compatible animal host in / around Auckland and that this animal (or another that had been infected from it) had contact with one of the family members.

EDIT 13/08/2020: It appears that the major suspicion has been cast on chilled goods arriving in shipments from overseas. Also, they have had their borders closed for a long time. For this reason I’ve greyed the scenarios above involving a quarantee.

It’s of course still possible that a gift that hadn’t been opened until a week or so ago may have been contaminated with the virus, also. Any of the above scenarios is still possible the border closure wasn’t I believe, a hard closure. Time will tell, anyway.


Also of course, we also know that a) bats are the most likely origin of COVID-19 and thus the animals most likely to have been infected when NZ still had a caseload, and b) it’s also been conclusively shown that COVID-19 is found in feces so direct contact with an infected bat is not necessary, just contact with something a bat left a dropping on and which was not thoroughly disinfected before being touched / used. 

Just a note on that – even powdered feces blowing on the wind might be infectious, so the only way to be sure is to sterilise / disinfect EVERYTHING we come in contact with. That’s an unrealistic expectation (or a post-apocalyptic one) and so we should probably just be careful and wait and see if we can develop a COVID vaccination or the Holy Grail, a single antiviral vaccination.

But the fact remains that SARS-CoV-2 is a persistent bugger and we need to always be wary until it’s eliminated altogether or we have that Magic Vaccine.

Elimination is – almost – possible. New Zealand has both proved that and disproved that. If the world adopted ultra-hard borders everywhere for a year AFTER the last recorded case of COVID-19, there would be a chance that everything could go back to normal. But then again if SARS-CoV-2 has taught us anything, it’s that there’ll always be another virus / bacterium / toxin / alien invasion. Men In Black got that right . . . 

Victorians are whingeing at the thought of wearing masks for a few months but my feeling is that we’re all going to be wearing masks and staying distanced for years.

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