Wednesday 27th of January 2021

on the wrong side of the bars, as "the old are beginning to tire"...


I’ve been on to my solicitor to draft a certificate setting out why I should be saved when the Great Triage comes.

I can’t think of a single reason off the top of my head but he’ll come up with something. He’s good. He’s expensive. I want the document on me when I’m wheeled into ICU.

Meanwhile, we wait. Those who matter most to us are putting their lives at risk on the front line. Politicians are frantic. The media is in overdrive. But the rest are part of a waiting nation.

Some of us wait at home. Some in queues. In Redfern this week, the line waiting for Centrelink to open went all the way up the street, a disciplined queue, each citizen a little apart, sitting on milk crates and cradling takeaway coffee.

God bless the milk crate, there for us in good times and bad – to gawp at Mardi Gras or disarm a killer rampaging round the Sydney CBD and now the crates are indispensable as we queue, perhaps endlessly, for help.

Strange how old-fashioned the responses are to this new-fangled intruder in our lives. We’re washing our hands. Grandmothers are cutting hair again. Rolled oats are in short supply. One of my in-laws is selling chooks at $35 each.

What’s happening is clear: the virus is taking us back to our childhoods. But a word of caution. The happy memory of hens in the garden and fresh eggs for breakfast doesn’t survive much scrutiny. I know. I fed the buggers. It means a lot of work with never enough eggs. How I loved the sight of my father at the chopping block killing the chooks too old to lay.

Pity he won’t be round when all this is over. There will be work. But when will that time come? We haven’t a clue. The most remarkable thing about these remarkable times is having so little idea when and where this story will take us. Its arc is a mystery.

The virus is reminding us how much time and energy we spend predicting the future. We do it automatically. And despite the twists and turns that catch us off guard, we humans are pretty good at working out what’s coming down the track. It’s how we survive.

But not this time.

That’s why the virus has overwhelmed the news cycle. With the future so uncertain we can’t tear ourselves away. We keep reading and watching and listening though the story wasn’t different this morning and will be the same tomorrow – the same yet new.

Mind you, the old are beginning to tire. “I’m so sick of the news,” a celebrated whinger raged at me the other day. “Twenty-five minutes of coronavirus and then the weather. It’s not enough. What about a murder every now and again …”

The mysteries of the future are throwing politics in the air. Politics divides over the best way to deal with reasonably predictable outcomes. Politicians and commentators throw the words unprecedented around all the time. But it’s rarely justified. Now it is.

Politicians are feeling their way forward into the unknown. Old divisions are all but meaningless. There’s no left or right way to approach this catastrophe. There’s only doing it badly or getting it right.

So we’re seeing an extraordinary sight I can’t remember in my lifetime: conservative governments making radical choices and spending huge sums of money to address a national crisis.

How trivial this makes the politics of the last decade seem, all those years conservatives spent blocking solutions to that other great challenge we face. It’s too expensive to do anything about climate change, they said. Too daring. Too disruptive. So they deliberately pursued the politics of logjam.

But now the purse is open. Extraordinary demands are being made of the country. And perhaps, in the end, it will work. The great lesson of the coronavirus may well be that we have it within our grasp to address and solve the problems of this country.

That would change Australia, a nation that’s grown increasingly pessimistic over recent years about the possibilities of politics and increasingly reluctant to demand political solutions to the problems we face in the future.

Perhaps the culture wars might be abandoned at the same time out of sheer pointlessness. It’s sweet to see the panic merchants of the media – those who revved up the nation about refugees and Indigenous land rights and transgender kids and the high price of doing anything about climate change – urging calm in the face of the virus, calm and trust in the government.

We wait. One day we will tell stories about being there when handshaking stopped; when we held our breath passing people in the street; when cruise ships roamed the seas; when the Minister for Keeping Out Foreign Contagion came down with the bug; and, for a couple of days, Bondi beach was closed while Crown Casino stayed open.

We all have friends waiting on milk crates and know grandparents in exile from their families. With dry coughs and breathlessness, the pandemic has also brought loneliness and, of course, ruin everywhere.

The business of a woman I know has gone kaput and 15 employees are facing the sack. She’s a big figure in her trade. She’s always grown vegetables as a hobby but you should see her garden now. It’s never been so planted, weeded and fed. It’s a picture.

Over the road, friends of friends are hunkered down for a fortnight’s self-isolation. The prisoners sit with their little girl in the doorway and their families gather at the gate. They bring picnic chairs and, of course, takeaway coffee.

They’re learning not to kiss and hug. It isn’t easy. Worse, we all find, is learning to stand a little apart. It feels so awkward, so cold, so wrong.

A woman known for her extreme attitudes on a number of fronts has stood apart rather dramatically by retreating to the remote hinterland of Canberra where she is running her business from a tent pitched in a paddock. “From here,” she explained, “I get line of sight to the Telstra tower.”

There’s a reassuring lesson for capitalism here. From that great distance, even though they are scattered to their own homes, she is still able to terrify her staff.

I’m working from home as I always have. As usual, I sit in a bubble of good fortune. But I’m getting on. When the kids call the virus the Boomer Doomer, they had my kind in mind.

Which reminds me, I’d better get on to my lawyer again.



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Relax, there is ony another 18 months of stupidity to go... Then we enter the purgatory of submissive imbecility...

boat people...

boat people

the reality from germany...

Here is part of comments from Dr M. Horn, Senior Physician in the emergency room of a hospital (HBK) in Zwickau, previous Democratic Republic — East Germany.

In the meantime, there are voices that say that you can let the old die... Do you notice it yet? When do the disabled, the asthmatics, the other chronically ill follow? Is it arrogant ignorance or is it simply stupid?

Anyone who declares that influenza is comparable to the coronavirus, has not recognised the important difference and certainly has not understood it. 

Yes, tens of thousands die of the flu every year. 

But the flu great danger — the scenario that we could face now in the current situation (hopefully not!) — Influenza, the "forest meadow flu” (in Germany), runs for about 6 months, from October to March, each year with continuing illnesses, recoveries and also deaths. 
Every now and then, seriously ill people have to be admitted to clinics, say 2 to 3 people a day in a clinic. Numerically no problem. Why are thousands now dying within a few weeks (first China, then Italy, for a week Spain, for a few days increasingly France)? 

What is different about Corona? What are WE afraid of — us at the front in the emergency room and in the clinic (on the verge of exhaustion after two weeks)?

The corona virus leads to a RAPID increase in the number of infected people, including those who are seriously ill and those who need ventilation. We're talking about a two weeks period. And not the 6 months of the flu season, in which the numbers of sick people are distributed. 

As a rule, 10 days after the coronavirus infection, severity of infection occur in 10 percent of the cases. Do you understand what I'm talking about? We are talking about the collapse of the clinics’ ability to cope within a short time. And would then have the same conditions as in the other countries. The high number of cases is not due to the fact that the people are sicker or the doctors are less able. The numbers are exploding because the clinics simply cannot treat the sick. End of story, nothing to add. Nothing works anymore.

At the moment everything is still manageable in Germany, you might think. But what happens when the next stage starts in about 10 days (younger people are increasingly affected and now children are also affected)? 

For us emergency physicians, it is a purely a mathematical problem: Zwickau district with 300,000 inhabitants (estimates). Infection number to be assumed 40 to 60 percent = 150,000 patients. 10% severe courses = 15,000 sick, ventilated patients 1% of 150,000 = 1,500 patients. Number of hospitals in the district = 4. Number of beds = 2000. Ventilation places: maybe 100. Maybe 200. Rather less. Even if we could double the number of beds, we can only treat a fraction of the sick. What about other patients during this period? Traffic accidents? Heart attacks? Strokes? Then there would be no more ITS beds. 

Do you understand what it's about? What I am describing is the extreme case, the worst case, as we say in emergency medicine. Is that an exaggeration? No, because exactly this scenario is currently running in the countries mentioned above. Because they were two to three weeks earlier and not really prepared. I don't want to panic.  I just wanted to tell you what we are preparing for in the emergency room and what scares us.

And now I would urge all ultra-smart internet researchers and YouTube analysts to keep their clever "ifs and buts" closed and to exercise restraint. That would be wise and reasonable.

Kind regards from the HBK (Heinrich-Braun-Klinikum) Zwickau emergency room , where since yesterday we have been forced to close regular wards and open pandemic wards — because "everything else" is not so bad.

To emphasise it again: the main solution is so simple. Keep physical contacts as minimal as possible. Don't get infected and do not infect others. Only go to the hospital if you are really sick. And not if you have to cough. This would help us and everyone else a lot.

Perhaps the current situation is an opportunity to bring some peace to our society, which is often fueled by hatred and exclusion, hostility and political propaganda. We are residents of a city. Citizens. Neighbours. We are not enemies with enemies. No red or green. No Nazis and no fascists and no radical representatives of any ideology. We are people in a difficult situation.

Stay cool. And stay at home.

One more thing to those responsible of schools and in the education system: reconsider the irresponsible decision to keep schools running in the next few weeks. You are putting our children's health at risk. The pandemic is yet to come.

M. Horn
Senior physician in the central emergency room HBK

protecting the old germans...

BERLIN — Europe is in crisis.

Countries across the Continent are in lockdown. Borders are closed off. Health care systems are dangerously overstretched. Economies are contracting. And people are dying, in terrifying numbers.

Here is much the same. Though not in full lockdown, schools, shops, restaurants and theaters are closed; gatherings of more than two people are banned. The economy will shrink and jobs will be lost. Even Chancellor Angela Merkel self-quarantined after learning that her doctor was infected. (She tested negative.) Germany, it seems, is not immune to the ravages of the pandemic.

Except in one way: Very few people seem to be dying. As of Saturday, of the 56,202 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, just 403 patients have died. That’s a fatality rate of 0.72 percent. By contrast, the current rate in Italy — where over 10,000 people have died — is 10.8 percent. In Spain, it’s 8 percent. Over twice as many people have died in Britain, where there are around three times fewer cases, than in Germany.

The startling numbers are something of an enigma. Some have hailed the country for breaking the spell of catastrophe; others have been far more guarded. What is going on here? And what can we learn from it?

First and foremost: Early and persistent testing helps. And so does tracking people.

Take the country’s first recorded case. On Jan. 28, a man in Bavaria who works for a car parts company that has two plants in Wuhan, China, was confirmed to have the virus. Within two days, the authorities identified the person who had infected the patient, tracked his contacts and quarantined them. The company stopped travel to China and shut down its plant in Bavaria. The outbreak — several other employees tested positive — was effectively contained. Across the country, the pattern was repeated. Local health departments and federal authorities worked together to test, track and quarantine exposed citizens.

Germany has also been better at protecting its older residents, who are at much greater risk. States banned visits to the elderly, and policymakers issued urgent warnings to limit contact with older people. Many seem to have quarantined themselves. The results are clear: Patients over the age of 80 make up around 3 percent of the infected, though they account for 7 percent of the population. The median age for those infected is estimated to be 46; in Italy, it’s 63.

And many more young people in Germany have tested positive for the virus than in other countries. In part, that’s attributable to the country’s more extensive testing. But there’s also an element of chance and culture. Germany is a skiing nation — around 14.5 million Germans go skiing every year — and the Austrian and northern Italian Alps are popular locations. This year, after vacationers traveled to one of the centers of the European outbreak, Tyrol, they seemed to bring back the virus with them — and spread it.


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how the coronavirus protein enters your domain...


Cryo-EM structure of the 2019-nCoV spike in the prefusion conformation

Daniel Wrapp1,*, Nianshuang Wang1,*, Kizzmekia S. Corbett2, Jory A. Goldsmith1, Ching-Lin Hsieh1, Olubukola Abiona2, Barney S. Graham2, Jason S. McLellan1,†

Science  13 Mar 2020:

Vol. 367, Issue 6483, pp. 1260-1263

Structure of the nCoV trimeric spike

The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak of a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) to be a public health emergency of international concern. The virus binds to host cells through its trimeric spike glycoprotein, making this protein a key target for potential therapies and diagnostics. Wrapp et al. determined a 3.5-angstrom-resolution structure of the 2019-nCoV trimeric spike protein by cryo–electron microscopy. Using biophysical assays, the authors show that this protein binds at least 10 times more tightly than the corresponding spike protein of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)–CoV to their common host cell receptor. They also tested three antibodies known to bind to the SARS-CoV spike protein but did not detect binding to the 2019-nCoV spike protein. These studies provide valuable information to guide the development of medical counter-measures for 2019-nCoV.


The outbreak of a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) represents a pandemic threat that has been declared a public health emergency of international concern. The CoV spike (S) glycoprotein is a key target for vaccines, therapeutic antibodies, and diagnostics. To facilitate medical countermeasure development, we determined a 3.5-angstrom-resolution cryo–electron microscopy structure of the 2019-nCoV S trimer in the prefusion conformation. The predominant state of the trimer has one of the three receptor-binding domains (RBDs) rotated up in a receptor-accessible conformation. We also provide biophysical and structural evidence that the 2019-nCoV S protein binds angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) with higher affinity than does severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-CoV S. Additionally, we tested several published SARS-CoV RBD-specific monoclonal antibodies and found that they do not have appreciable binding to 2019-nCoV S, suggesting that antibody cross-reactivity may be limited between the two RBDs. The structure of 2019-nCoV S should enable the rapid development and evaluation of medical countermeasures to address the ongoing public health crisis.


The novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV has recently emerged as a human pathogen in the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province, causing fever, severe respiratory illness, and pneumonia—a disease recently named COVID-19 (1, 2). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of 16 February 2020, there had been >51,000 confirmed cases globally, leading to at least 1600 deaths. The emerging pathogen was rapidly characterized as a new member of the betacoronavirus genus, closely related to several bat coronaviruses and to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) (3, 4). Compared with SARS-CoV, 2019-nCoV appears to be more readily transmitted from human to human, spreading to multiple continents and leading to the WHO’s declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on 30 January 2020 (1, 5, 6).

2019-nCoV makes use of a densely glycosylated spike (S) protein to gain entry into host cells. The S protein is a trimeric class I fusion protein that exists in a metastable prefusion conformation that undergoes a substantial structural rearrangement to fuse the viral membrane with the host cell membrane (7, 8). This process is triggered when the S1 subunit binds to a host cell receptor. Receptor binding destabilizes the prefusion trimer, resulting in shedding of the S1 subunit and transition of the S2 subunit to a stable postfusion conformation (9). To engage a host cell receptor, the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of S1 undergoes hinge-like conformational movements that transiently hide or expose the determinants of receptor binding. These two states are referred to as the “down” conformation and the “up” conformation, where down corresponds to the receptor-inaccessible state and up corresponds to the receptor-accessible state, which is thought to be less stable (10–13). Because of the indispensable function of the S protein, it represents a target for antibody-mediated neutralization, and characterization of the prefusion S structure would provide atomic-level information to guide vaccine design and development.


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entering the domain of the oldies (in cartoons)...






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stats: all the oldies have died...

After suffering one of the world's most brutal outbreaks of COVID-19 earlier this year, the United Kingdom is bracing itself for what could be a second wave of the disease. 

The UK managed to flatten its curve slightly from late June, just in time to allow people to enjoy the northern hemisphere's summer. 

The loosening of restrictions across Europe, which allowed people to enjoy rounds at the pub and beach holidays, is widely blamed for the region's second spike.

But while the number of infections has climbed steadily for two months, something strange is happening with the UK's COVID-19 death toll. 

The number of death certificates issued which mention COVID-19 has been falling for 20 straight weeks, according to UK Government statistics.


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in need of a rejuvenation...

Opinion: German ageism spreads during coronavirus pandemic

As the pandemic continues, so does the spread of negative stereotypes about older people. A massive number of people are simply being written off — and that, DW's Astrid Prange writes, is misguided and dangerous.

For years, the German philosopher Richard David Precht has called for the introduction of compulsory volunteering for retirees. His argument is that there have never been as many fit and healthy pensioners in Germany as there are today — and that they should do something useful for society. 

Yet, a year after the identification of COVID-19, the general perception of the population aged 60 and over has been turned on its head. All of a sudden, older people are being portrayed as needing protection: as vulnerable and weak. The pandemic has made them victims of discrimination and isolation.

But who exactly is protecting whom? The findings of a written survey of just under 5,000 people aged between 46 and 90 conducted in June and July indicate that protections for the so-called vulnerable in society might be well-intended, but they do not always go down well with the people they are meant to help. 

Fewer than 10% of respondents said they felt threatened by the pandemic. The survey shows that health is a more important factor than age when it comes to perceived risk. People who regarded themselves as being in good health felt less threatened than those who did not.

Help 'the aged'

Commissioned by Germany's Family Affairs Ministry, the survey is a positive step. But can it really do anything to prevent a return to old role models that we thought that we had left behind us?

The response to the pandemic has not only brought digital advances and, in some ways, modernized society but has also made it more conservative. During the series of shutdowns, it is women who have been burdened disproportionately with housework and childcare, while fit and healthy retirees are perceived as having mutated again into vulnerable, needy creatures. 

This irrational response is a dangerous side effect of the pandemic. It writes off a huge slice of the population, thereby endangering social cohesion at a particularly critical point in time. 

Contradictory actions

Why are we calling on retired doctors, pharmacists, firefighters, nurses, teachers and police officers to return to the front lines and, in the same breath, declaring everyone over the age of 60 to be in a risk group? And why do we expect a generation that has already contributed so much to building society and creating solidarity to make the biggest sacrifices in terms of putting up with isolation and loneliness?

In an increasingly aging society, it is misleading to refer, in general terms, to "the aged" or "the older generation." These populations do not exist. Much of the help on offer to sick or frail people is being given by people who belong to the generation 60+, in particular, when it comes to taking care of relatives.

And many of them will continue to be key players in society once the pandemic is over. If we class everyone over the age of 65 as weak, senile and vulnerable, then we hurt and devalue an entire generation. Unfortunately, it is impossible to fight the spread of this virus of bias with a vaccine.


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