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Weekend reading: Does working from home work for you?

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What caught my eye this week.

Fashion shop ASOS reported full-year results this week. Revenues were up a fifth and profits surged, as the online retailer found itself with a – cough – captive audience during lockdown.

In the mercurial way they are wont to do though, its shares actually slumped despite this good news.

Everyone knows business is booming for online retailers, and ASOS shares have been on a tear for months. So like a seasoned Tinder swiper, investors focused on the negatives.

ASOS’s management fears its 20-something customers are set to suffer more job losses. That’s even assuming they’ve got anywhere to get dressed up to go to, with much of the country lurching into increasingly ubiquitous ‘local’ lockdowns.

Also, customers have begun to return a lot of what they buy, just like they used to in the good old days.

For a few months earlier this year, a sort of Blitz spirit saw most shoppers buy only what they felt most likely to keep. But more than a few have now resumed their habit of ordering with abandon like Julia Robert’s Pretty Woman run wild in Rodeo Drive, only to return most of it to ASOS. That’s a big drag on margins.

I suppose it’s encouraging in a sense. A hint from the resilient younger generation that things will go back to normal someday, spendthriftery and all.

Office politics

I wondered about whether we’ve changed and what will go back to normal before. It still seems up in the air, at least from the perspective of UK citizens who find themselves restricted again. (I daresay the existential questions are less prevalent in virus-free South East Asia.)

One place where the narrative is especially all over the place is working from home.

I’ve read countless reports from property companies this year that talk a good game before admitting their offices are open, yes, but mostly empty.

And it wasn’t long ago that Boris Johnson was urging people to go back to work, eyeing city centers that remained more ring doughnut than jam-packed.

But even before the second wave, it wasn’t clear whether people actually wanted to go back to the office.

A study by UK academics found that 88% of employees who’d had a taste of working from home during lockdown wanted to continue to do so, at least in some capacity.

Nearly half said they wanted to mostly work from home in the future.

Set against that are regular soundings from those who are finding working from home a strain, if not depressing or distracting.

As one person quoted by Slate put it this week:

I didn’t think I would miss the office because I’m an introvert … until I was a few months deep into full-time WFH. I almost need the external accountability of going into the office.

Otherwise I tend to procrastinate and lose focus, and as a result I’ve really seen my work quality dip and my stress level go up as the months have gone on.

I recently got the opportunity to come back into the office on a part-time basis and I feel so much more productive and happy.

I have worked from home for most of the past two decades. I’ve long considered it one of the secret joys of modern life. (I did break the omertà and tell you so).

Everything is easier without a commute or crowds at the shops, and with most of your chores done during screen breaks.

Not to mention you’re more likely to be in for those online deliveries!

Well, that cat is out of the bag. We’ll see how many newfound freedom lovers can transition to at least partially working from home, and how many are made miserable when the option is snatched back from them.

What do you think? Let’s have a rare Monevator poll:

This poll is no longer accepting votes

Would you prefer to work from home...

(If you can’t see the poll in your email please check it out on the Monevator website).

I don’t expect our readership to mirror the general population. But it’ll be interesting to see what you all think.

If homeworking is here to stay, then some companies face a reckoning. You can definitely run a business with many or even all your workers at home (I have) but it must be set-up that way for the long-term. Institutional memory and goodwill got firms through the first lockdown. But those are wasting assets.

Have a great weekend, as best you can where you are.

From Monevator

Pension transfers: everything you need to know – Monevator

From the archive-ator: How to Make a Million, Slowly, by John Lee – Monevator


Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view you can click to read the piece without being a paid subscriber. Try privacy/incognito mode to avoid cookies. Consider subscribing if you read them a lot!1

Tax rises of more than £40bn a year ‘all but inevitable’, says IFS – BBC

Working from home: could you be eligible for up to £125 in tax relief? – Guardian

Just 16% of self-employed put money into a pension, compared to 48% 20 years ago – ThisIsMoney

Government reveals proposals on how it will protect the future of cash – Which

…including plans for UK shops to offer cashback without a purchase – Guardian

National Grid warns on lack of wind recently [Says we will avoid blackouts]ThisIsMoney

US auction theorists Milgrom and Wilson win Nobel Prize for Economics… – BBC

…and Monevator won the top spot in a ranking of UK personal finance blogs – Vuelio

Don’t mix your politics with your portfolio – A Wealth of Common Sense

Products and services

PayPal to charge £12 inactivity fee: how to avoid the charge and spot a scam email – Which

Fears lenders are set to crack down on remortgaging and first-time buyer loans – ThisIsMoney

Sign-up to Freetrade via my link and we can both get a free share worth between £3 and £200 – Freetrade

FCA to ban sale of crypto-derivatives: will it protect you from investment scams? – Which

On average, we should budget an extra £197 for working from home heating this winter – StartupsGeek

Homes in former hospitals and infirmaries [Gallery]Guardian

Comment and opinion

Move over Help to Buy — now it’s help yourself to your pension [Search result]FT

First mover – Indeedably

How old are you, really, and how should it affect your retirement planning? – Investment News

Can you hold on to your accumulated wealth? [Search result]FT

Go long – Humble Dollar

There’s no ‘bank of mum and dad’: What it’s like to be richer than your parents – BBC

Haunted houses – Klement on Investing

When to spend your money mini-special

Once you have enough, it’s time to help others – New York Times

Carl Richards: spend on the things you love – The Evidence-based Investor

Are you a toxic retirement saver? – A Teachable Moment

Naughty corner: Active antics

Letter from the value investing mental asylum (or how I embraced the stoics) – Advisor Perspectives

Japanese equities still look very cheap compared with the rest of the world – Verdad

Buffettology Smaller Companies: IPO thoughts – IT Investor

An alternative to the standard model of investment [Research]SSRN

Virus and Brexit

Source: FT. Note: Log scale.

Covid-19: Is Sweden getting it right? [Video]BBC

How worried should the UK be? – BBC

PM warns he may ‘need to intervene’ on Manchester – BBC

Remdesivir has ‘little or no effect’ in reducing coronavirus deaths, WHO says – CNBC

Covid reinfection: Man gets Covid twice and second hit ‘more severe’ – BBC

Should airlines be promoting £5.99 flights during the Covid crisis? – Guardian

Brexit: UK must ‘get ready’ for no EU trade deal, says PM… – BBC

…I’m old enough to remember when “we would hold all the cards” – Steven Poole on Twitter

Jonathan Pie: the second wave [Video]YouTube

Marina Hyde: What are the Conservatives conserving? Not us, and not even their own party – Guardian

Kindle book bargains

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen – £0.99 on Kindle

The Looting Machine: Warlords, Tycoons, Smugglers and the Systematic Theft of Africa’s Wealth by Tom Burgis – £1.99 on Kindle

Reinvention: How to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life by Brian Tracy – £0.99 on Kindle

RESET: How To Restart Your Life and Get F.U. Money by David Sawyer – £0.99 on Kindle

Just Fuck*ng Do It: Stop Playing Small. Transform Your Life by Noor Hibbert – £0.99 on Kindle

Off our beat

The dangers of cynical sci-fi disaster stories – Slate

How iceman Wim Hof discovered the secrets to our health – Outside [hat tip A.R.]

Why save Secret Cinema when real cinemas are in ruins? [I see a case, but £1m?]Guardian

Cluttercore: the pandemic trend for celebrating stuff, mess, and comfort – Guardian

And finally…

“It turns out that everyday meltdowns – failed projects, bad hiring decisions, and even disastrous dinner parties – have a lot in common with oil spills and mountaineering accidents.”
– Chris Clearfield, Meltdown: Why Our Systems Fail

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  1. Note some articles can only be accessed through the search results if you’re using PC/desktop view (from mobile/tablet view they bring up the firewall/subscription page). To circumvent, switch your mobile browser to use the desktop view. On Chrome for Android: press the menu button followed by “Request Desktop Site”. []
{ 112 comments… add one }
  • 1 Juan October 17, 2020, 10:06 am

    I suspect that businesses ability to operate with the majority of staff working remotely willing be increasingly tested over time. The social fabric that is built from people working and socialising together will start to decay and staff turnover means it doesn’t get replaced. A whole new set of organisational skills will be needed to build a sense of team and place.
    I am entirely happy working from home indefinitely. Returning to the office, and two hour commute to get there and back fill me with dread!

  • 2 David October 17, 2020, 10:07 am

    Congratulations on the well deserved award! I don’t think I’ve ever read the blogs in positions 2 to 10 so that should keep me busy for a while…

  • 3 Kript October 17, 2020, 11:56 am

    Too late to suggest this to TI but I just got this email from The Big Issue folks; https://bigexchange.com/ they’re launching an ethical investing platform. Not had much chance to read yet but might be of interest to someone?

  • 4 BerkshirePat October 17, 2020, 12:02 pm

    I HATE commuting, although I used to enjoy trips into London to visit the regional office.
    I was doing two days a week in the office pre-COVID, and I’m a 15 minute walk away, so it suited me fine. Now I’m stuck WFH permanently and I don’t like it – I’m really missing the social aspect and informal chats with colleagues. Also, there are some things that really *need* to be discussed in a room with a whiteboard, face to face, rather than on a conference call (with people getting distracted by emails, family, Facebook etc)
    A general point -which has been made before – if employers discover that a number of their staff can work from home effectively 24/7, how long before they start thinking; “well, if we’re employing a body we never see on the end of an internet connection, why not employ someone in a lower-wage country ?”

  • 5 C October 17, 2020, 12:02 pm

    Working from home long term means re-designing your work and personal life.

    Your work life has to build in planned moments of social connection & serendipity and ideally foster a sense of psychological safety so people can say exactly how they are feeling. This takes more work than giving employees a laptop, Microsoft 365 and a zoom account though – and doesn’t suit those who thrive on back stabbing others and other ploys.

    Personal life wise, even an introvert like myself, had to start building a social life. Even for the middle aged with few friends this can be surprisingly easy to do through activity based groups.

  • 6 Snowman October 17, 2020, 12:10 pm

    With all the talk of a second wave I thought I’d make a chart to show how the current increase in covid-19 deaths (the real metric that matters) compares with the first wave. So broadly asking how bad regionally is the current uptick as a percentage of the first wave using the real metric that matters, deaths. This is what comes up.


    Looks like the North West which has had the tightest restrictions, has had the highest growth in infections, while those restrictions were in place in large parts of the region (bearing in mind deaths follow infections after about a 3 lag). I think we all knew that, although a lot of the justifications for saying that are based on positive test counts which are unreliable.

    That to me must reflect that either a) the North West had less community immunity than say London from the first wave or b) it means that these extra restrictions don’t work. A question to others, what other plausible reasons could there be?

    So if you believe Vallance’s nonsense that 93% are still completely susceptible to covid-19, then you can rule out a) as having any real affect and that leaves you with b) being correct that the extra restrictions don’t really work.

    In reality I believe there is clearly significant community immunity from the first wave. The Sweden graph above shows you that as does the immunology, and the best mathematical models out there that working on the real data such as Gabriela Gomez’s model. That doesn’t mean covid-19 is eliminated but it means that it becomes endemic.

    The level of community immunity determines the level of uptick we experience because we are heading into Autumn and Winter and the herd immunity equilibrium changes a bit and we cycle across the herd immunity threshold even in a population that has already crossed the herd immunity threshold once (perhaps Sweden).

    Sweden has significant community immunity it appears and so its current uptick is very small at the moment.

    London has potentially significant community immunity also (from the curve deaths fell away during the first wave quicker in London even when you translate the curve to allow for London peaking slightly earlier than other regions in the first wave). But the community immunity appears to be less than Sweden hence the current ongoing uptick is a bit more than theirs but will still end up it appears a mere fraction of the first wave.

    The North West has perhaps a good level of community immunity but not as much as London, perhaps looking at the graph it will max out at about 25% or less of the first wave, hard to say?

    The South West certainly appeared to be least hit by the first wave, but is also not experiencing much of an uptick now relative to other regions. Low population density alone probably doesn’t explain that. Could be a number of reasons that do explain it. For example it may be the high number of tourists mixing with locals allowed a significant amount of ‘safe’ spread in the summer (safe spread wouldn’t be picked up in antibody prevalence because the production of measurable antibodies that don’t decline rapidly is associated with more severe infection). Or it could be that people have been out in the sun more and there is less of a vitamin D deficiency (we know that vitamin D deficiency highly associates with poor covid-19 disease outcomes). In truth we don’t know.

    But the real relative upticks that needs explaining are the North West with heavier restrictions for a long time vs London with lesser restrictions.

    Even if you are a fan of lockdowns it doesn’t seem to make any sense that London is moving up a tier when you see how small the uptick is relative to the first wave and relative to other regions. Did I read somewhere that there is about one ICU covid-19 patient per hospital in London at the moment?

  • 7 Sara October 17, 2020, 12:19 pm

    The Slate quote above is interesting as I also am a pretty extreme introvert but I too hate working from home. I went back to work on site as soon as I could. It’s not particularly the people I miss though it is nice to see someone other than family. It’s the structure – turns out I am really bad at structuring the day if I am not forced to get up and get ready to go out. I don’t have a long commute though so maybe I’d feel differently if I did.
    If you’d asked me about home working before all this, I’d have said it would be something I’d enjoy. My job is 90% PC based so that’s not the issue. Because of local lockdown I am going to have to work from home for a few days over the next few weeks and I am NOT thrilled. So I have learnt something unexpected about myself . Also means that I am going to have to consider structure when I do get to say goodbye to the “man” 🙂

  • 8 Rob B October 17, 2020, 12:29 pm

    This is all pretty intriguing from an introvert / extrovert perspective.

    According to Myers-Briggs, FACET-5, Insights and other psychometric tests, I’m an extrovert. Yet I LOVE working from home. No distractions or interruptions (I let the Teams call ring out / mute the phone call if needed). Colleagues know I will get back to them. WFH doesn’t mean you need to be 100% available – I wouldn’t be in the office so I if I’m busy or in the zone…. I’m just that.

    I get much more work done and I don’t miss the commute at all. Bliss. When it’s time to wrap up for the day, laptop is closed.

  • 9 xeny October 17, 2020, 12:33 pm

    @Sara, I’ve been getting up at the usual time and going for a walk around the block (about 25 minutes at a relatively gentle pace) and then starting work. That may be helpful in imposing some structure.

    I find I value the time I get back (about 2 hours/day) but am finding the absence of boundaries an issue. It doesn’t help that I sometimes need to go and poke physical objects at work, and we have a process where you need to book site access by mid-day of the Thursday of the preceding week, which removes a lot of spontaneity. I essentially turn up at site with a lengthy, prioritised task list, that I attack like a dervish to make the best use of the day on site for myself and a few colleagues.

  • 10 Haphazard October 17, 2020, 12:40 pm

    Regarding the FT graph of deaths – if you click on the link, you can add Germany, to get a look at a country that acted much quicker on the first wave. Beats the UK and Sweden hands down.

  • 11 Jonathan B October 17, 2020, 1:09 pm

    @Snowman, thank you for you graph which is thought provoking. I seem to remember in April/May a paper from some scientists in Manchester plotting the exponent of the decline during the first peak against the number of deaths on a regional basis. There was a negative slope, suggesting a degree of protection. Certainly the North had fewer deaths, and the first wave declined more slowly and the second wave rose faster than for London for example.

    The question is whether there is really enough immune protection to make a difference, and there has been much speculation on this website as much as anyway that the ONS antibody surveys under-estimate immunity. But actually, if the restrictions we are all under reduce infections by around 40% (guesstimate), then the extra 20% reduction due to immunity in London could mean that area is significantly closer to the fabled “herd immunity” than some other places. Doesn’t hold for the Southwest though, and a less simplistic analysis would have to take into account age profiles; it is likely that community spread is greatest in the younger age groups with older groups then becoming infected by household spread.

  • 12 ZXSpectrum48k October 17, 2020, 1:29 pm

    I’ve been working from home, typically 3 days a week, for about a decade. I’ve never seen a concrete reason to work in an office. You stare at the same applications on the same screens. Trade with the same salespeople over the same chat system. I only go into the London office for analyst meetings, modest socialization with those who work for me, and a bit of gossip with other managers.

    Many team leaders have been far too resistant to WFH but the last six months has proved them wrong. I’ve constantly told them it increases team productivity, people work better with no damned commute. People can’t WFH everyday but 2-4 days/week has little or downside. It’s been pretty liberating for many teams. The majority have enjoyed lockdown. More time to see the kids, more lie ins. It just fits better with home life (school run, Amazon deliveries, trades-people etc).

    People are seeing this as a major opportunity to get out of London. Needing to get to the office by 6-8am forced many to live close by. Now they see they don’t need to get in at that silly time. Selling the London house at £1k-3k/sq ft to buy a commuter belt house at £500/sq ft, frees up massive lumps of capital. It’s taking the pressure off people. The fear of losing your job dissipates. Retirement is feasible. This, of course, only applies to those, like me, in their 40s with kids and well into their career. Those in the 20s and early 30s love London and have no interest to get out.

  • 13 Snowman October 17, 2020, 1:32 pm

    Should have said the earlier regional graph is based on the English hospital deaths with a positive covid-19 data as reported in the ‘COVID 19 total announced deaths 16 October 2020’ spreadsheet on the NHS website (Home, Statistics, Statistical work areas, COVID-19 Daily Deaths)

    Based on deaths up to 10th October only, because dates after that might exclude a material number of deaths that have occurred but not been reported. North West likely to go up to about 19% in coming days, and South West up to 3%.

  • 14 Vanguardfan October 17, 2020, 1:54 pm

    Well frankly dealing with wfh is not remotely the worst aspect of the pandemic for me.
    I like some aspects of it, but I miss meeting my workmates in person and just the general rhythm that separates work from home.
    I am having to work quite hard to maintain enough social contact to keep me vaguely sane. Luckily I have a lot of friends, unluckily most of them are in public facing roles, so they are exhausted and not necessarily in need of more interactions.
    Further, I can only meet them outside. Meeting new people is pretty much impossible, c you are lucky if activity based groups are still occurring in your area, all of my interests have been closed down. But on the plus side, I am solvent and warm, and can largely choose my level of exposure (teenage household members aside). I think it is going to feel like a long winter….

  • 15 Snowman October 17, 2020, 2:26 pm

    Interesting to read all the comments on home working.

    A long time ago, I was doing an office based job, that I didn’t really enjoy. I then became self-employed and worked from home pretty much on my own for a number of years. The work was piecemail and I could pretty much choose my own hours.

    Initially I loved this and the freedom this gave me to do things in the day and not having to do all the commuting. I actually moved up to Cumbria because my work didn’t constrain me in where I was working. I knew someone living in Brighton doing similar work who used to start work at 4am, finish at midday and then go to the beach for the rest of the day.

    However after a while I started feeling a bit isolated and I missed the social interactions at work. It was only after the home working ended that I realised just how bad things were deteriorating. Fortunately I ran some training courses at a company 150 miles away and that turned into them asking me to provide ongoing support that ended up going on for about 3 years at their workplace. So ended up driving down there staying over for the week and coming back at the weekends. Despite all that travel, I much preferred being in a workplace again.

    I’m now just doing voluntary work, and it hasn’t really been possible to go into the workplace while the pandemic has been on. I’m not sure I would want to do what I am doing by telephone from home albeit practically it could be doable. Some of my colleagues are working from home but they say it just isn’t the same.

    I’d class myself as an introvert by the way, albeit I’m not particularly prone to conforming to conventional norms.

  • 16 The Investor October 17, 2020, 2:57 pm

    Quick tech query!

    Is everyone seeing the poll closed (results visible) — even if they haven’t voted?

    Or are some people still able to vote? (as of 3pm GMT)

    It’s supposed to show you the results after you’ve done one vote, but something is going wrong.

    (Nearly 700 people *did* manage to vote before though, so a decent sample.)

  • 17 the Ig October 17, 2020, 3:07 pm

    I’m with Rob B – so much more productive without pointless meetings and interruptions and distractions. Easier to switch off when laptop shutsdown. Work doesn’t come into my home time anymore. Lucky enough (for me) to have a role which involves me speaking to people a fair amount of time so actually find myself quite hoarse come end of my shift and certainly not lonely. Have also found that the folk I speak to – usually WFH themselves – are far less stressed than when they were onsite. Depends on a lot on how your workplace has addressed this – mine, ironically for a large public sector org has been generally exceptional in some ways.

  • 18 David October 17, 2020, 3:11 pm

    I voted on my phone this morning and saw the results, but it’s letting me vote again now. I also just voted on my laptop but it won’t let me vote a second time unless I open the page in incognito mode. I doubt too many people will try and cheat the system though as the question is fairly innocuous. Don’t try using it for a Brexit or lockdown poll though!

  • 19 The Investor October 17, 2020, 3:21 pm

    @David — Thanks, that was what I was trying to avoid. I’ve increased the ‘block’ window again but some were reporting never getting the chance to vote at all. We’ll see! 🙂

  • 20 Snowman October 17, 2020, 3:32 pm


    Just managed to vote for the first time (desktop)

  • 21 John @ UK Value Investor October 17, 2020, 4:47 pm

    I’ve been 100% working from home for about 18 years, initially because I found work dull/stressful and I though working from home (where I can listen to music or sit in garden whenever I like) would alleviate some of that.

    It did, but it’s definitely not for everyone (and of course it’s hard to be a bus driver or security guard from home).

    Some sectors, such as marketing, are full of crazy people who love interacting with colleagues and clients, having work parties and generally being in the thick of it. I know. I’ve been there and seen it up close, and sitting at home on a laptop is not even remotely a substitute.

    Although of course home-working it’s a useful option to have, and I think the expectation of some degree of flexibility will be the lasting change.

  • 22 Bigpat October 17, 2020, 5:27 pm

    6 years I’ve been reading this blog. 6 years I never knew your name, broken by Vuelio link. Apologies but slightly underwhelming to be honest in the end the Investor – had hoped for something more exotic!

  • 23 Vanguardfan October 17, 2020, 5:37 pm

    @bigpat, I’m getting deja vu here. I remember last time Monevator won an award – TI is not the named front person iirc, that’s TA.
    But hey, there would probably be quite some surprises if we all had to reveal our actual names 😉

  • 24 Vertigo October 17, 2020, 7:22 pm

    The argument that Sweden has built up herd immunity isn’t supported by data – randomised antibody testing published in September shows only 7.1% of Swedish residents have antibodies. A Time article published this week goes through some of the arguments against the Swedish model: https://time.com/5899432/sweden-coronovirus-disaster/

  • 25 L October 17, 2020, 7:42 pm

    WFH has been a mixed blessing, but almost all good.

    I haven’t missed the office (public sector with 100% computer based role) one bit. No moaning colleagues, no political chat, no commute and 05:30 alarms.

    Work life balance is improved. I only live 5 miles from work, but still save 2 hours a day. I see my wife and daughter more, we eat better.

    On the negative side, it feels like every one of our immediate neighbours has had an extension. If I never hear the screech of an electric saw or the drone of a drill again, it will be too bloody soon!

  • 26 Xenobyte October 17, 2020, 7:43 pm

    working from home:

    Our company owner loves it: has closed our office, put IT requirements in the cloud; sacked the IT, HR, receptionist, and office manager; offshored s/w development overseas, cut salaries, cancelled trade shows; and runs incomprehensible remote meetings with customers where he does all the talking.

    Our clients love it: they’ve closed their offices, put IT requirements in the cloud; sacked ‘dead wood’, closed graduate recruitment, driven down recruitment commissions, consultancy, service costs, and cancelled s/w maintenance. And they run incomprehensible remote meetings where their managers do all the talking.

    We loathe it: our home and work hours have drifted into one; we work longer hours for less pay; remote working is slow, coordination is worse; the client expects the same quality and same turnaround time; our days are disrupted by incomprehensible remote meetings with self-important twats sitting in front of book shelves (no it doesnt make you look clever).

    On the plus side, neither my girlfriend or I need to shave any more.

  • 27 Learner October 17, 2020, 7:56 pm

    My company is looking at not opening an office until late summer 2021 so I’d better get used to it. Even then it will likely be a 3 days in 2 days home situation with a lot of flexibility. As much as I’d prefer more office time (bike commute, better working space, socializing) a mix like that seems ideal for the future. I hope it sticks.

  • 28 Matthew October 17, 2020, 8:52 pm

    I don’t want to associate home with work, and if I did do it (I dont) it’d be impossible with childcare

    But I do think there is a massive globalisation/deurbanisation possible from this – don’t need cities so much anymore, it’s more viable to recruit someone from the sticks, and if you can work from home, essentially your job can be outsourced to india/china. Globalising the white collar jobs might benefit poorer blue collar workers who but the services but are more immune to it themselves

  • 29 Algernond October 17, 2020, 9:57 pm

    Congratulations on the Award @TI. Well-deserved for you and @TA. I won’t go to the this ‘Vuelio link’ that @Bigpat mentioned, as I still want to keep up the mystique of not knowing who you are..

    Also depends on geographical circumstances for the commuting / WFH balance. I’m lucky in that it’s only a 10 min cycle ride to my office, so it can be a nice break from WFH. It’s definitely good to meet with colleagues sometimes to have a good whiteboarding session, which is just not the same from home. Even before the restrictions, it was normal for many at my place to come Tue-Thu, and mostly WFH Mon/Fri, especially since many had to travel from very afar (my industry is a bit specialised with suitable workers a dying breed, so they can quite easily even live in a different country and commute).

    Am highly suspicious of the government supposed proposals for protection of cash. Can’t really help thinking it’s a delay tactic.

    @Vertigo – Immunity is not only from anti-bodies. It’s generally the weak that give a strong anti-body response. Many others have T-cell immunity which make up part of the overall community immunity total. Here’s a great article on Mike Yeadon (a former R&D VP at Pfizer) that discusses it in some detail:

    @TI – I see you have accepted there is a ‘second wave’ – are you not at least a little bit questioning of how easily the Govts / Media have changed the definition of this to be from ‘cases’ rather than mortality?

    Nice discussion on the analysis from @Snowman as usual – good stuff.
    I’ve long since passed any belief that the somewhat unified un-scientific response to the Rona from developed world governments now has anything to do with health. Luckily I don’t even have to mention conspiracy theories by name (I’m sure @TI would delete such posts). All you have to do is go to the World Economic Forum website, where you can see it all for yourself. They eagerly advertise it, and are even up to episode 12 on a podcast dedicated to it.

  • 30 Sparschwein October 17, 2020, 11:49 pm

    @Algernond – stop spreading anti-scientific nonsense and conspiracy-mongering.

    The data from SAGE, Independent SAGE etc. shows the second wave very clearly. The key metrics – confirmed cases, proportion of positive tests, hospitalisations – are sharply increasing. Deaths have started to increase too, but such a delayed indicator is rather useless to gauge the *current* dynamics.

    “Many others have T-cell immunity” – this claim is a blatant misrepresentation of the excellent work from Shane Crotty, Florian Krammer and other leading immunologists.

    The Sweden experts should be quick to point out that infections are skyrocketing in Stockholm. Even in the promised land of “herd immunity”, there is no such thing.

  • 31 Vertigo October 18, 2020, 12:06 am

    @Algernond On the T-cell question, I wouldn’t trust sites like “Lockdown Sceptics” to give an unbiased overview. This from the BMJ is more likely a fairer discussion on the matter: https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3563

    While both antibodies and T-cells may give some protection against SARS-CoV-2, the quality and duration of immunity is still unknown. We know for sure that reinfection is possible, however, albeit this seems to be rare so far.

    Even if Covid mortality has dropped (for several reasons, including younger infectees and more informed care), we need to be cognisant of hospital/ICU capacity, especially in the winter flu season. Moreover, the “save the economy” folks should look at the Time article I linked above, which shows that Sweden actually did worse economically than its neighbours. I don’t think “reopen everything” is an economic panacea.

    Some positive steps, that I would hope have broad support, would be to fund urgent research to answer these questions (antibody/T-cell prevalence, treatments etc.) and implement a functional test and trace system. The situation is complicated – I’m reticent to believe those who peddle simple solutions in the face of incomplete information.

  • 32 Grumpy Tortoise October 18, 2020, 12:11 am

    Congratulations on the award. You deserve praise and recognition for such an excellent site.
    Having PC-based office job and an enlightened (public sector) employer I have had the ability to work from home for as much/little as I chose. Before Covid-19 I only did this perhaps one day a week, preferring the company of colleagues at work and the having to get up and travel for 30 minutes to one of our regional offices to work and give structure to my days.
    I have now worked from home every day since mid-March this year and my employer does not envision us returning to our offices until March next year. I’m no extrovert but I certainly miss the social aspect, the chance meeting of people (where often some of the most fruitful takes place) and the fact that working in an open office environment means that you sub-consciously absorb what’s going on.
    I have found the endless Teams meetings are becoming a drag, especially with a national role such as mine where there is often a large number of people at these virtual meetings. It all gets a bit chaotic and having to get people up to speed every time you meet is wearing.
    I enjoy my 30-second ‘commute’ from the bedroom to the study. I enjoy the amount I am managing to save (no more lunches to buy or coffees at train stations). I enjoy not having to endure my weekly journeys by train to either Leeds or London which, because of where I live were about 2 hours each way.
    I don’t enjoy seeing the same four walls and do really miss seeing my colleagues on a face-to-face basis. I now tend to work even longer hours because those that I used to sometimes spend (largely) unproductively commuting I now spend working.
    When the situation is better I will almost certainly go back to work for perhaps 2-3 days a week but from home for the remainder. A happier balance I hope.

  • 33 Long time lurker October 18, 2020, 7:55 am

    Congratulations on the award.
    As mentioned by one of the posters abroad, if you WFH the companies will start to look for cheaper people at the end of the internet cable, as the capability has now been proven.
    Unilever cottoned onto this and has shifted it’s finance, supply chain, etc analysts over to Poland. (better time zone than India)

  • 34 Warren Bogle October 18, 2020, 8:19 am

    I’m an introvert and find the interaction in the office exhausting, so much happier working from home. However, I think the best balance would be 3 days at home, 2 days at work.

    My job involves report writing, so home provides a better environment to concentrate in. At the office I am on a pod with 8 people and there are endless distractions and interruptions.

    Most of all I don’t miss the office politics, endless back stabbing and one upmanship, by colleagues trying to get ahead.

    Also, my commute on the tube involves squeezing into a crush of people at the station every morning and on the way home.

    I do think the bosses will want their staff to return to the office once this is over so they can return to normal. After all that is all they know and helps to keep them in control when they can physically see their staff all day. WFH will once again be seen as the domain of slackers who don’t want to get ahead.

  • 35 Warren Bogle October 18, 2020, 8:56 am

    Dear Investor

    Please could you run another poll but only for those who run an office to respond to and see how the result compares.

  • 36 FI Warrior October 18, 2020, 9:15 am

    WFH has forcibly exposed presenteeism as just the urge to control by top management or owners who refuse to trust their staff to do the work they’re paid for. It removes the typically self-defeatingly draining commute where everyone loses, you arrive at work tired and must be less effective at the job for that, while being an unhappier employee. Workplace bullying, through office politics will have to decline, because most of the stress is most effective inflicted face-to-face. It was amazing the old system lasted this long and will be irreversible now because companies without site costs will have a competitive edge. Hugely helpful too is that the cost of a job will go down, since workers don’t have to pay for the commute, work clothes and functions (forced work-related socialising like the pub) they wouldn’t have necessarily chosen, which are all really just another cost of having a job, like most higher education is.

  • 37 Vanguardfan October 18, 2020, 9:21 am

    Meanwhile, the government continues to pursue a completely wrong-headed approach to contact tracing, doubling down on a punitive rather than supportive approach. Now not only to you risk losing your income and your livelihood, but you get the cops calling round too. All to prevent local authorities getting any increase in their powers.
    On the plus side, demand for tests might soon not be an issue


  • 38 The Weasel October 18, 2020, 9:29 am

    WFH full time back in March was pure bliss. Now for some reason not so much, I think I’m missing, not the colleagues, but perhaps the structure: clearer boundaries of when work starts and ends. I still find pointless to waste 3 hours daily in a commute just to stare at same screens I can stare at at home.

    So, in balance I’d be happy with at 3 days WFH /2 days in the office routine.

    Re: off-shoring. Didn’t companies try that like 10-15 years ago and it didn’t work? It boiled down to quality-of-labour issues, I think. Otherwise they would be doing it already, pandemic or not. They do it with manufacturing after all…

  • 39 MrOptimistic October 18, 2020, 9:48 am

    Voting thingy worked ok for me using a tablet. Showed the results. My opinions on life and the universe:
    1. Don’t see the value of badging this as a second wave. Its just the same as in the spring having temporarily interrupted it by lockdown measures.
    2. Current upsurge isn’t surpring, what did everyone expect?
    3. Working from home is detrimental to new starters, trainees, interns etc. They are denied the myriad learning opportunities from contacts in the office and unplanned events.
    4. Of course many people prefer working from home; it saves time, effort and perhaps money in the short term. In terms of the impact to business efficiency, productivity and growth opportunities it’s too early to say and the opinions of the workers may not properly reflect that.

  • 40 Algernond October 18, 2020, 10:23 am

    Hi @Vertigo – It’s Mike Yeadon who I often read now. Just so happened, this article was on Lockdown Skeptics. Thanks for the BMJ link also, I see it references some of the same studies as the Mike Yeadon article.
    The detail is of course very interesting, but I already feel I know enough now to have an informed opinion that lockdown is wrong. I’m pretty much aligned with the Great Barrington Declaration:
    (had been hoping @TI may link to this anyway for balance)

    @Sparschwein – ‘anti-scientific nonsense and conspiracy-mongering’.. pot & kettle?

    • Herd / community immunity is a fact of all viruses (Lockdown is the experiment). Without herd immunity, the human race wouldn’t exist. For some viruses (e.g. measles, polio) vaccines are deemed essential (and luckily effective), since the IFR or/and R0 is relatively high and so the community immunity level need to be pushed up. Doesn’t appear the Rona is one of those.

    • Are you denying what is peddled on the World Economic Forum website, and their multitude of videos on the matter? (made by them.. not other people!)

  • 41 P Everton October 18, 2020, 10:55 am

    Herd immunity?

    Is the question this – if I get coronavirus and my life is under threat, will herd immunity save me?

  • 42 The Investor October 18, 2020, 10:56 am

    @all – Can everyone be moderate in the words they use when discussing the virus please. Some words are more emotive than others. Both factions are doing it and think they’re right to do so. Let’s chill and remember without discussion with those we disagree with we’ll never get anywhere.

    Hopefully I can add my 2p this evening.

  • 43 The Investor October 18, 2020, 11:06 am

    @P Everton — Needlessly inflammatory. Herd immunity is exactly what we get when we vaccinate a population against measles or whatnot. Vaccination accelerates the process enormously and saves people from sickness and death. Anti-vacs, babies, the old and vulnerable etc benefit from the immunity of others.

    The debate about C19 with respect to this is whether it can/should be reached naturally, motivated by the downsides/costs of alternative approaches (eg lockdown until a vaccine).

  • 44 Neverland October 18, 2020, 11:18 am

    Xenobyte summarises the outcome of WFH pretty well

    Once the input is purely remote its pretty easy to analyse what the input actually is

    Once you find out which roles can WFH for twelve months most comapnies will look to offshore those roles to South Africa, Mexico or Asia

    I believe the one of the latest forecasts is for 3 million unemployed by Christmas, not all of those people will be working in retail

  • 45 Vanguardfan October 18, 2020, 11:27 am

    ‘Herd immunity’ isn’t a binary concept, as so many here seem to be implying.
    In pre-covid days, the term was used in relation to vaccination, to explain a concept whereby very high population rates of vaccination could also protect the unvaccinated, by reducing, or in very rare cases eliminating, the circulation of the virus in the population. For a disease like measles, which is highly infectious, over 95% of the population need to be vaccinated for effective suppression.
    With most viruses we don’t achieve full ‘herd immunity’ by natural infection, because enough of the population remains susceptible (or reacquires susceptibility as immunity wanes) for the virus to continue in circulation. This is what is meant by an ‘endemic’ pattern of infection. Flu seasons vary in severity because of variation in population immunity to the prevalent strain.
    We would not expect to reach ‘herd immunity’ for covid via either natural or vaccine immunity, given our knowledge of other coronaviruses.
    The debate with covid seems to be about the extent to which a combination of pre-existing non susceptibility, plus first wave infections, can effectively inhibit the spread of infection in such a way as to allow social distancing restrictions to be loosened.

  • 46 The Investor October 18, 2020, 11:37 am

    @Vanguardfan — Excellent explanation, better than mine. Thank you.

    (Also well remembered about myself and @TA!)

  • 47 The Accumulator October 18, 2020, 11:51 am

    @ TI – except really we’re one and the same, aren’t we?

  • 48 Algernond October 18, 2020, 12:23 pm

    @TA (TI) – please remember, it was me who initially proposed that. I would say my most valuable (only worthwhile?) contribution to this site.

  • 49 weenie October 18, 2020, 12:41 pm

    Firstly, congratulations on the award, well deserved and well done to all at Monevator.

    I’ve been doing the same as @xeny – I go for a walk around the block every morning before I log in for work, rain or shine. I also go for another one after I’ve logged off for the evening.

    This second walk encourages me to stop working at a sensible time (easy to lose track of time when you don’t see colleagues packing up to leave at home-time) as I don’t want to go out walking too late and this helps me maintain a sense of work/life balance and separation.

    What I miss most about WFH are the random non-work interactions I used to have with colleagues – the only time I video-call anyone is for work related stuff.

  • 50 FI Warrior October 18, 2020, 1:48 pm

    ‘I believe the one of the latest forecasts is for 3 million unemployed by Christmas, not all of those people will be working in retail’

    My guess is that workstyle policy will mostly change only by force, since the few with the power to effect that change are currently already benefiting from the status quo. At work, we are lectured by training companies explaining that major cultural shifts are incoming now no matter what the resistance to them may be. But they are referring to millenials taking over management while Gen Z will increasingly account for the heavy lifting lower echelons of the workplace. They explained that those categories have different motivations and that would force employers to listen and compromise on work-life balance. I’m sceptical though because I remember WFH being only one modest dream of mine when I started working and even that was still nixed for most staff for the next couple of decades. Then now you’ll have millions of newly unemployed further lowering the negotiating power of those staff still in work, so logic dictates that whoever calls the shots will get what they want, while everyone else’s dreams mean zilch, so stay just that, dreams. And those in positions of power or control will almost always be older, probably still at least Gen X, hence the sedate pace of change.

  • 51 Sparschwein October 18, 2020, 1:55 pm

    This Memo sums up the broad consensus among the global scientific and medical community (originally published in The Lancet this week):

    I have signed it, as have thousands of other scientists. I would invite everyone else with a background in medicine or the Life Sciences to join in, and spread the word.

    There is too much misinformation and deliberate disinformation. It’s about time that scientists push back.

  • 52 old_eyes October 18, 2020, 2:43 pm

    I just did some quick numbers on my experience of WFH. I have been fully WFH for 22 years. During that time for approximately 14 of those years I had an office I could have worked in if I wished. Mostly I did not, only using it as a convenient place for meetings about once every two weeks.

    For most of that period, I was also using other places for meetings with outside groups and colleagues, because they were more convenient. Motorway service stations, and hotel lobbies mostly, with the occasional rented meeting room particularly for larger groups.

    I always found it worked perfectly for me. Despite being a gregarious extrovert I was happy working on my own most of the time as long as face-to-face meetings were there when I needed them.

    Productivity gains outside of an office environment is real. I found it interesting in my last gig-with-an-office, that many of my colleagues would announce that they would be working from home on such-and-such a day, even if they were normally in the office. When asked why, the universal response was “I have some work to do”. So even the usually office bound recognised that for concentrated work, the office is usually a terrible place to do it because of all the distractions and interruptions (open plan offices have generally made things worse).

    There are two challenges to widespread WFH that have not yet been recognised (I am speaking for those jobs that can in principle be done from home, not being a nurse or a production line worker); the additional stress of on-line meetings and the challenges of creativity and problem solving.

    It has been clear to me for a long time, and there is fairly good research evidence, that on-line meetings require more effort than face-to-face meetings. I suspect it is the reduction in communication bandwidth. With so much information transferred through gesture and body language, the talking heads of an online meeting leave us struggling to grasp the meaning of what others are saying. It requires a lot of mental energy. For that reason, I won’t participate in an online meeting that lasts more than an hour, and I won’t do them back to back. I sometimes have video calls with people who have just come out of four hours of video meetings on the bounce. They are wrecked. Their brains have turned to mush and they are operating on autopilot. For employers, there is a real risk that if they expect staff WFH to engage online for the same number of hours they might do in an office, they will just burn people out. You need to change the way you hold meetings.

    The second problem is creativity and problem-solving. Any meeting that would normally involve whiteboards and flipcharts, lots of arm-waving, and probably quite a bit of shouting, is really hard to make work online. Tom Allen of the MIT Sloan School used to say that there were three levels of group engagement; coordination – everyone knows what they have to do and need to keep aligned, cooperation – people with different skill sets need to work together to achieve a well defined goal, and inspiration – coming up with new solutions. He argued that coordination is easy to do online, cooperation is harder but doable with care, and inspiration is extremely hard, verging on impossible.

    That is what I have observed, even with improvements in online collaboration tools. The kicker here is that in emergency pandemic mode most businesses have just been keeping things going. When we reach the re-invention needs coming out of the pandemic and dealing with Brexit, we will need to be in the same room.

    So my guess is that we have seen a tipping point. Things will not go back the way they were. However, offices will still have a valid purpose, but it will be as meeting spaces (perhaps designed for creativity), not for working spaces.

  • 53 Algernond October 18, 2020, 2:44 pm

    @Sparchwein – ‘the global scientific and medical community’
    Which community is it that the signers of the Great Barrington Declaration belong to?

    The Great Barrington Declaration seems to be ‘winning’ by 39,500 vs 2,400 at the moment wen you count the medical / health professional signatories.
    (you can go to their respective websites and check this very easily – please do).

    They did take the site down for a day about a week ago, to make sure they had a robust vetting procedure for signatories (as some were made-up, which have now been removed).
    Seems like they are acting responsibly to me.

  • 54 Vanguardfan October 18, 2020, 2:54 pm

    @old_eyes, your comments about the difficulty of video-conferencing can be transferred to online learning, which I expect to be a car crash in universities this year (for the students). So much for prioritising the young.

  • 55 old_eyes October 18, 2020, 3:07 pm

    On the Great Barrington Declaration.

    The fact that the declaration was sponsored and instigated by a libertarian and free-trade ‘think-tank’ funded by the Koch brothers makes me suspicious.

    The second concern is that you will always find contrarian scientists against any given consensus. The important thing to remember is that mostly they are wrong and the consensus correct. For every Einstein, or perhaps a Wegener with continental drift is a better example, there are literally thousands of contrarians who were wrong. They of course left no mark and are forgotten. This is a classic example of survivorship bias. The very thing in investing that we are constantly warned against on this site.

    So when I see a declaration signed by a few genuinely contrarian scientists who are expert in the relevant topics, puffed up by a whole load of non-experts with a political ax to grind (not to mention Donald Duck and his friends), I am not impressed. I look at the scientific consensus on the one hand, and the (possibly honestly felt) views of a small number of experts on the other, and think I’ll go with the consensus.

  • 56 old_eyes October 18, 2020, 3:12 pm


    “The Great Barrington Declaration seems to be ‘winning’ by 39,500 vs 2,400 at the moment wen you count the medical / health professional signatories.
    (you can go to their respective websites and check this very easily – please do).”

    I just visited the website (https://gbdeclaration.org/view-signatures/). The list of signatories is not publicly available. Until it is, I will stick with the expert consensus.

  • 57 Algernond October 18, 2020, 3:54 pm

    You make a fair point about contrarian scientists, but you can say the same about the John Snow one also.

    With regards to the signatories, yes, I see that only the authors and co-signers are visible. That’s disappointing. Let’s hope all are vetted & published as soon as possible.

    ‘…the expert consensus.’ – I’m sorry, but that really does translate as ‘…my chosen expert consensus’

  • 58 Sparschwein October 18, 2020, 3:57 pm

    @Algernond’s pseudo-scientific declaration has many such eminent experts as “Dr Johnny Bananas” or (my personal favourite) “Dr Barnard Castle, eyesight specialist”.

    As @old_eyes pointed out, it is a PR stunt from a Koch-funded far-right “think tank” that also peddles in climate change denial and tobacco lobbying.

    In actual scientific news, a new study on Long Covid:
    “In a young, low-risk population with ongoing symptoms, almost 70% of individuals have impairment in one or more organs four months after initial symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

  • 59 Indecisive October 18, 2020, 4:27 pm

    @old_eyes #52 – a great summary of WFH, especially the productivity gains. I’ve been WFH for almost my entire working life (14 years) and it’s been both incredibly isolating and the best thing ever (TM).

    So long as I have some human interaction – calls with clients or colleagues, and outside work housemates or a family – I like working from home. The worst periods have been when I’ve been single, and when work has been scarce and it can be weeks before I talk to anyone non-family (and non-sales call; that doesn’t count for me)

    You need to change the way you hold meetings.

    This. In my early years I was introduced to the idea that the more people in the meeting, the shorter it was (does anyone remember the name of that?). It worked a treat as it forced people to prepare and to stop inviting people who weren’t essential. Since then I’ve come to the conclusion that too many managers call meetings to feel important, to look busy, and to be able to talk (rather than write up the topic in a way others can reflect, digest and challenge).

    The second problem is creativity and problem-solving. Any meeting that would normally involve whiteboards and flipcharts, lots of arm-waving, and probably quite a bit of shouting, is really hard to make work online.

    Two thoughts, and this ties in with @Vanguardfan, #54 as well:
    When I’ve worked in offices – both when employed and on behalf of clients) real creative moments were exceedingly rare. I could chop most fingers off and still count them. The real creative moments happened over lunch, outside of work and – most frequently in my experience – in university settings. Something about that setup produced it like no office I’ve ever been part of.

    For the kind that I’ve had happen in offices (and the kind I do with clients), I find the online whiteboards (e.g. Miro, but others are available) work well but require structure from whoever’s facilitating. Now finally I get onto the point that ties in with @Vanguardfan… my wife has been moving to online tutoring since last year. The kids who don’t have attention issues adapt really well. I suspect there is an age and generational factor in what works well online, and this ties in with which of my clients can work with online whiteboards, and which are bemused by the whole experience. It’s going to take time to develop practice and have it accepted by companies, but the younger end of the workforce are digital natives and haven’t become set in their ways yet.

    Will universities cope? The staff I know are doing their best, but I remember how important it was to be able to put up my hand in a lecture and ask for clarification. I’ve not seen how the 2-way learning is going, or heard from students how they find it.

  • 60 old_eyes October 18, 2020, 4:51 pm

    ‘…the expert consensus.’ – I’m sorry, but that really does translate as ‘…my chosen expert consensus’

    I cannot disagree more. Consensus is an observable fact. There either is, or is not, a consensus. Where there is vigorous debate based on published and peer-reviewed evidence, there is no consensus (cf debate on role of hydrogen as a fuel). There seems to be consensus from the bulk of relevant experts that herd immunity to COVID-19 is impractical absent a vaccine. The scientists behind the GBD may be able to create a strong enough scientific argument for herd immunity, but we need to see the evidence, and so far we have not. It has been a theoretical argument.

    In your world it may be OK to choose the evidence and experts that agree with your preferred position. In my world that sort of cherry-picking is frowned on.

    However, I will leave you with the last word as that seems to be important to you.

  • 61 David October 18, 2020, 6:22 pm

    If the scientific consensus is against ‘herd immunity’ without a vaccine, why did Patrick Vallance mention that term at the very first briefing in March and state that we needed a certain proportion of people to catch the disease? It seems pretty obvious that was the government’s strategy at the beginning, and Corbyn has confirmed he was briefed on it (he was still Labour leader back then). Surely for Vallance to say this in March it must have been a scientifically informed policy? I appreciate we know more now, but if anything the disease has become a bit less deadly since the first wave, so it seems odd to now completely go back on that position and claim it’s ‘unscientific’.

    It was interesting to read the rival memorandum and declarations, but these strike me as highly political in nature. It’s pretty obvious that a total lockdown and/or closing borders will suppress the virus, but it’s politicians who have to decide how to balance that fact against the implied timescales and all the other negative consequences. And politics is in full force – rival Tories from north and south attacking each other, a Labour Mayor in London pressing for stricter measures while another Labour Mayor in Manchester resists them.

  • 62 ermine October 18, 2020, 6:33 pm

    On a perhaps lighter note, I do wonder from the theme of some of those Kindle books choices of late if TI is having a little bit of midlife questioning phase. If so:

    a) there is some argument that happiness is u shaped. On average it gets better, and quite a lot better.

    b) the light has to shine from within 😉 Like much in life, you can’t make it do that, it must out of its own accord. Observation points to it generally getting to do that, in people who are in a position privileged enough to be considering FI. But you can’t make it do that by intellect alone.

    And if I’m way off track, well, this is meant as a tease and light relief, thanks for a site which helped me RE, keep up the good work!

  • 63 P Everton October 18, 2020, 6:39 pm

    The Investor 43.
    Cutting to the chase, actually.
    Herd immunity is what you’ve got if enough of the population survives and there’s no threat to the species. Some people’s preferred approach appears to be to wait for herd immunity.
    How much death is that and who cares, one might ask.
    Well, exactly.

  • 64 e17jack October 18, 2020, 7:42 pm

    Interesting how the people claiming to be introverts all want to get back to the office… But the extroverts are happy working from home.
    The Atlantic had a good piece a couple of weeks ago, making a really good argument that we do need workplaces (especially for the young):


    I found myself nodding along to a lot of that article.
    I’m a freelancer in my early 40s and i’ve spent around half my time over the last ten years working from my home office. It took me a LONG time to get a handle on separating work and home in my brain – it is so important to shut down the computer at the end of the day, and on Friday night.
    I’m much better now, but for years i would nip up to my desk at 9pm on a weekday or any quiet moment at the weekend just to ‘do a bit of invoicing’ or ‘knock out a few emails’.
    That attitude never allows the brain to shut off from work which is bad news.

  • 65 BerkshirePat October 18, 2020, 8:53 pm

    I’m logged on and checking work email now – it’s nearly 9pm on a Sunday night 🙁

  • 66 Matthew October 18, 2020, 8:56 pm

    Although the coronabrexit may indeed cost many lives and disabilities and overwhelm the NHS, we have to be honest that some people are happy to accept that as a price for no lockdown – like accepting risk when you choose to skydive, ski, etc. Rather than saying it honestly they try to dispute facts

  • 67 MrOptimistic October 18, 2020, 9:42 pm

    @Sparschwein. I am a scientist and no, I won’t sign something I believe to be wrong.

  • 68 Al Cam October 19, 2020, 1:07 am
  • 69 Snowman October 19, 2020, 8:19 am

    Are infections skyrocketing in Sweden? This chart may help you decide – number in Swedish hospital ICU each day (ignore last 2-3 days in the chart, maybe some ICU numbers not yet reported)


  • 70 Algernond October 19, 2020, 9:32 am

    Maybe just another two weeks @Snowman? That 2nd wave must be coming….

  • 71 ZXSpectrum48k October 19, 2020, 4:01 pm

    Picking up on @old_eyes comment about the challenges of WFH in terms of creativity. My senior management is seeing significant benefits from more isolated teams. It’s leading to more innovation in strategies, lower correlation and better returns.

    Having managed a small team for almost a decade who all WFH at least a few days a week, it’s easy to see why. I find that most people (including myself) tend to be quite “soft brained” – in that we tend to mirror what we were last told/saw. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of replicating the current successful idea, the consensus view etc. It’s much harder to follow the beat of a different drum in an office. That leads to a tendency for groupthink.

    By comparison, isolation at home helps people to think differently. I want everyone in team in the orthogonal complement to everyone else. If I have two team members cooperating too much, then there is clear overlap, and the weakest is simply surplus to requirement. That also operates at the broader team level.

    Regarding COVID. I don’t really get the constant need to compare the UK and Sweden. It’s like choosing the winner in the ugly competition. Both countries are miserable failures in terms of protecting lives and the economy. It’s odd that more people aren’t looking at their approach that Asia/Australasia took. Those countries had less deaths and less economic damage. A relative win. If we spent even a fraction of the energy we’re currently spending debating COVID policy, instead debating economic policy, perhaps this country might get somewhere.

  • 72 Sparschwein October 19, 2020, 9:22 pm

    @Snowman – as I said, infections are indeed skyrocketing in Stockholm.

    Stockholm is one example of many hard-hit regions with another surge now. The FT has a useful overview here. See “On average, places that were hit hardest in the spring are suffering the most in the autumn”

    An often-repeated narrative is that in Sweden and elsewhere the pandemic disappeared “because they reached herd immunity”.
    Clearly this is not the case.

    The FT also has a useful diagram of countries by Covid death rate and GDP impact.
    See “Countries that were unable to control their outbreaks have tended to suffer the most economic pain”.
    What the UK really should be discussing: What is it that Vietnam, South Korea, New Zealand, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Germany and Japan did right in handling the pandemic. How to make this happen here ASAP.

    Sidenote on the ICU data. This is a lagging indicator by several weeks. Still, the whole-of-Sweden data shows a ~50% increase in Oct so far.
    Sept – avg 16 Covid ICU admissions / day
    Oct to date – avg 25 Covid ICU admissions / day
    Rate of change matters more than absolute numbers here (interesting parallel to investing). The ICU trend looks bad. Hope I’m wrong.

  • 73 The Investor October 20, 2020, 9:52 am

    @Sparschwein — If Sweden does *not* see a massive surge in deaths over the next few months — without a national lockdown of the type Sweden avoided the first time around — will you come back and reflect on that?

    Because I’ve had six+ months of readers telling me in comments and in emails that Sweden’s situation was getting dire ‘right now’. But in reality it slowly got better.

    The issue, re: Sweden, isn’t whether New Zealand or South Korea or even China had a better response. Clearly for whatever reason (track and trace, testing, low initial infections, cultural mores) they did. I think it’s a straw man to suggest people aren’t looking at that. It’s mentioned all the time by many commentators.

    The sole interesting thing about Sweden IMHO is an escalating catastrophe was predicted without a national lockdown. Yet, as the graph shows, while we certainly saw plenty of initial deaths, the situation got better and better and now appears under control.

    That is the beginning and the end of what’s most interesting about Sweden in my opinion — but it’s *hugely* interesting, because it’s something many people still are saying isn’t possible.

    In contrast, almost everyone agrees that if you have 100 infections, you track and trace everyone with those infections, and you lock down all the so afflicted until the infection has past, then you can, pending new arrivals, eliminate the virus.

    Obviously true and it’s been done on and off in several countries. Nobody disputes it.

    I could turn around the strawman to you and say: “Instead of complaining about people wondering what worked in Sweden, critics should ask themselves why we did a national lockdown, saw GDP drop by 20%+ as a consequence, and appear to have gained nothing to show for it. No world-beating track-and-trace, no massively convincing policy, no consensus.”

    I appreciate you’d say those things should have been done. But they weren’t. This is why some people are running out of patience I think with the existing policy.

  • 74 Vanguardfan October 20, 2020, 11:00 am

    We did a national lockdown to avoid even more deaths than we would have had.
    It was certainly effective in reducing infections (i do not think it’s credible to argue otherwise) but it did not end the pandemic. Do I think we could have achieved the same outcome or better without a legally mandated stay at home intervention? Probably not. I am not even convinced that the economic damage would have been significantly better. But this is water under the bridge and I don’t really understand why so much energy is wasted arguing about it when we do not have, and cannot have, the counter factual.

    Re Sweden. International comparisons are interesting but we are sorely lacking in actual hard data to compare the effects of different policy approaches. It’s hard enough to work out what’s really driving infections in the UK where at least we know what the rules are, even if we have very little information on exactly what’s happening with behaviours.

    If Sweden has a second surge that will be positive evidence that they don’t have significant population immunity. However, the absence of a second surge doesn’t demonstrate whether or to what extent population immunity is inhibiting transmission. It could be that their distancing behaviours are sufficient to reduce infections to a level where they are containable by testing and tracing. We do not know.

    However, it’s clear enough that in the UK we still need distancing to contain our virus spread. Howe we do that effectively and with the least collateral damage is a matter of judgement. I think it’s possible that earlier hotspots now have enough immunity (acquired or pre existing) to be affecting the rate of transmission to an extent, but that is just speculation, my opinion. It’s also possible that any acquired immunity will be transient. All of this is hypothesis. There is very little evidence (as far as I can work out – very small studies on T cell immunity and cross reactivity with other coronaviruses. Nothing that would be able to quantify this at a population level, although I did read a quote from a virologist who estimated about 6% of the population might be non susceptible).
    Whenever I try to estimate how much of the population might have been exposed, it still comes out at a pretty pitiful proportion. So I think we have plenty of scope for continuing problems.
    I continue to believe that we are between a rock and a hard place. And that ideas that we are or could be solving this by getting everyone infected quickly are largely wishful thinking.

  • 75 Algernond October 20, 2020, 11:28 am

    I think @TI has mentioned in a previous week’s posts that I was repeating myself when showing this from the ONS:

    However, as with @xxd09’s WorldEquity tracker / GBP hedge Bond portfolio, it really is good to be reminded of basic things sometimes.

    I know it won’t please the ‘just two more weeks crowd’, as when it’s published on Tuesday of every week, it is always 10-days behind, but as you can see, the 2nd ripple in Covid-19 seems to match to a downward trend in other respiratory mortality, and total mortality for this time of year is not significantly departing from the 5-year average. Do remember that since the beginning of August, <2% of mortality has Covid-19 on death certificates – people have continued to die of other things which we haven't implemented drastic society changing measures for.
    Is having the Rona on death certificates instead of something else (other respiratory usually) really an excuse to continue with these measures?

    With all the scare tactics and mis-representation of the data still being deployed by the Govt (UK and others), and the seemingly complicit compliance from much of the media (some are actually asking better questions now), is it really unreasonable to ask what the actual agenda is?

    I think an earlier comment from me on this may have been moderated-out, so I hope I haven’t over-stepped the mark this time.

  • 76 The Investor October 20, 2020, 11:46 am

    @Algernond — Yes, I did delete the post about the globalist elite agenda. I am happy with constructive discussion about Covid 19 but that stuff is way off-topic for this site, in my opinion. And it’s my site!

    You can of course have your opinions and discuss them elsewhere. I need to walk a difficult balancing act with moderation here. Thanks.

  • 77 PopInLouth October 20, 2020, 4:06 pm

    Congratulations on your well-deserved blog award.

  • 78 Adam October 21, 2020, 6:35 am

    You didn’t strike me as someone into the law of attraction. I thought you were more on the rational side yet you recommend a law of attraction book in this post?

  • 79 The Investor October 21, 2020, 10:04 am

    @Adam — Hi, as I’ve mentioned before the Kindle bargains shouldn’t be seen as ‘recommendations’. They are interesting / well reviewed / popular books that are at least tangentially related to this blog.

    Where possible I feature books I’ve read and liked, but if I stuck to that religiously then given the limited number on offer each month we’d sometimes only have 0/1 books a month! So it’s more an ‘alert’ service to readers. 🙂

  • 80 Financial Samurai October 21, 2020, 2:40 pm

    Reporting in from San Francisco, California, most people I talk to want to work in the office 2-3 days a week after there is a vaccine.

    Overall quality of life will be better. Also, many of my wealthier friends are buying more SF property now before the vaccine. Time and time again, we’ve seen a rush back to big city living.


  • 81 Sparschwein October 21, 2020, 9:40 pm

    @TI. As @Vanguardfan and others have said:

    “no lockdown vs lockdown” – actually Sweden had a number of public health measures. It’s not black and white.

    People’s behaviour is what actually matters, not headline policies. I have seen data that mobility and consumer spending dropped similarly in Sweden as in other Nordic countries. If govt abdicates its responsibilities, people react anyway. (Not an excuse for govt inaction.)

    And the key point is: the UK is not Sweden.
    The UK started with poorer public health, has a massive international travel hub and higher population density. It’s really for epidemiologists to do a proper study, but if one wants simplistic comparisons, then Sweden should be compared with its similar Nordic neighbours.
    And that comparison shows the other Nordic counties did better both the economy and public health.

    “Sweden” is a propaganda narrative that parts of the UK media use to suggest that we should just do nothing and the pandemic will magically go away.
    Wishful thinking as public health policy – even the UK govt is better than that.

  • 82 SparkleBee October 22, 2020, 4:55 pm

    WFH : I interviewed for a job recently, it was a remote interview but the interviewer (‘prospective boss’) was saying how he can’t wait to get everyone back in the office. He didn’t like remote working and it was not helping to get targets achieved.

    He also made it quite clear that WFH was something that was imposed at the moment and it was not normal company policy and would not become one.

    So on that note, I gave up wanting the job as I would like a mix of WFH and office days. When in the office at my last job resulted in me being dragged into unnecessary meetings and terrible office politics which just didn’t result in any work being done. I would enjoy having WFH days where as others have mentioned – I could get my work done – uninterrupted – making me more productive…

  • 83 The Investor November 3, 2020, 12:27 pm

    Some incremental good news on longer-term T-Cell response to Covid:

    Scientists have found evidence of immune cells responding to Covid-19 six months after people were infected.

    In a study of 100 people with the virus, those with symptoms had a much higher T-cell reaction.

    But it is still not clear whether this leads to better protection against re-infection.


    Also (re)making the case that projected deaths have been overstated:


    (Interesting inaccuracy in the spelling of ‘inaccuracy’ in that URL, irony fans 😉 )

    I think it’s possible to look at the regional graphs and see flat-lining over much of England, except for the NW and Humber.

    So again are we going to be debating whether lockdown just gets the credit for what would have happened anyway? (i.e. Doing a Sweden, except never pushing through to their state because we choke the process off?)

    Definitely very difficult to tell and with hospital cases rising I can see a hugely difficult decision.

    But imposing a *national* lockdown seems more a failure of political will/capital (too much flack from the North) than hugely evidence-based to me.

  • 84 Jonathan B November 3, 2020, 9:31 pm

    Thanks @TI. Looking at the UK figures for cases there do seem to have been some improvement following previous restrictions (recognising that problems can occur with this, particularly since for convenience I follow the Worldometers version).

    To my eyes biased by wishful thinking, around 12 October what looked like exponentially rising numbers dropped to a noticeably lower rate – approximately 2 weeks after the 10 o’clock pub closing time came in. And around 24 October there was a further more distinct drop in rate – this time around 2 weeks after the introduction of a regional approach with Tiers. Since the tier approach is ongoing, things changed here only on the day the government announced lockdown mark 2, it is feasible cases might even have started to decline if given time.

    The government of course have also been looking at hospitalisation numbers and deaths, which are lagging indicators so will continue to rise. They need confidence those will stabilise and start reducing, and lockdown provides that. But on the face of it evidence from places in Tier 3 (for example, cases in Liverpool seem now to be declining) suggests those would have been sufficient national restrictions, in which case the economic damage from closing non-food shops is unnecessary. That could easily have been tested by collating outcomes to allow for the different dates of application of tiers.

    Nevertheless lockdown mark 2 will undoubtedly reduce cases and subsequently deaths, but if like the first time the decline will be much slower than the rise so that there is a real risk of lockdowns 3 and 4 needed before warmer Spring weather and potential roll-out of a vaccine bring relief. Not much of a winter to look forward to.

  • 85 David November 4, 2020, 1:29 pm

    Thanks for the update. The phrase “sledgehammer to crack a nut” springs to mind. Most of the latest measures are likely making very little difference to the spread of the virus, while using up every last scrap of goodwill and trust in “the science”. And causing all kinds of other deaths and suffering in the process. Not to mention destroying the economy that generates the taxes that fund furlough schemes, the NHS, etc.

    I’m looking forward to your “dedicated virus post” in the next few weeks.

  • 86 Algernond November 7, 2020, 2:03 pm

    Oh @TI: ‘I didn’t expect a big second wave, so I have to eat humble pie.’
    It’s not clear to me why you’ve fully bought into the narrative. A bit of digging shows we are in a PCR test pandemic (sheer level of testing, and false-positive driven).

    * No increase in respiratory deaths or ICU admissions in hospitals for this time of year (why is the media trying to deny seasonality?)

    * Excess mortality still within 5-year range for this time of year. It is close the max. for the last 5-years, but hospital deaths are down!! (this is on ONS website). Deaths at home are up, which are clearly not Covid (people go to hospital if they are having severe difficulty breathing). The breakdown of how much are suicide, heart attack..etc.. are yet to come.

    Ivor Cummins latest podcast contains good discussion of the latest data as usual:

  • 87 The Investor November 7, 2020, 3:07 pm

    @Algernond — My thesis was not your thesis. My thesis was that after a big first wave there would likely be a residual immunity in places hit hard the first time (such as London) which would mean Covid would become a background disease. Certainly not eradicated but not infecting a lot of people.

    Remember I was saying back in April/May (to pushback here and elsewhere) that based on the data I was seeing, at least a million people in London had been infected and likely two million or so. This was mildly heretical at the time, especially early on, though now it’s a truism.

    I think I was misled by the wide geographical dispersion of known cases at the start of the pandemic, when testing was c.non-existent. To me this suggested strongly that the virus had already spread rapidly, but was mostly asymptomatic.

    We later learned the virus had entered the country on at least 1,000+ separate occasions early on. Yes it had spread a lot and yes it was mostly asymptomatic (another thing people struggled with at the start, but it seemed obvious to me given how infectious it as, yet how relatively few people had troubling symptoms) but not to the extent that distribution would have implied if there was a ‘patient zero’ or even a few of them, rather than 1,000+.

    (With a patient zero you’d expect to see some sort of widening cluster in a particular area. I suspect the total lack of this early on is why they gave up so quickly on contact tracing, right or wrong).

    I’m still in the camp that thinks the reaction to the virus has been overdone, especially given what we know about it now, that overall mortality will be seen to be not as excessive as implied by various figures (but far more than you appear to think), that the GDP drawdowns and future debts are far more damaging than popularly supposed and disproportionate.

    But the fact is there has been a massive second wave. Even here where I live in London we went from 6 in 100K in midsummer to 200+ in 100K a week or two ago. I didn’t think that was very likely. I’ve read the stuff about PCR testing etc, and I’m sure it has an effect around the edges but it doesn’t change my view.

    If it walks like a second wave, and quacks like a second wave, it’s a second wave. 🙂

  • 88 Algernond November 7, 2020, 6:20 pm

    Hi @TI.
    I presume you’ve gone through the simple maths of the False-Positive thing?
    Let’s use false-positive rate of 1% to illustrate:
    So in the extreme case where population infection rate is 0%, then all positives (100%) would be false-positives.
    Now imagine the population infection rate is 1-in-a-thousand (0.1%). If 10,000 people are tested, that means that there would that 10 with SARS-CoV-2 would be detected. But there would also be ~100 false-positives ((10,000 – 10)*1%). So the >90% of the positives test results would be false. That’s not just a blurring of the edges.
    It’s completely inappropriate to use this kind of test when the population infection rate is low.

    Really sorry if you’ve already appreciated the above.

    I’m looking at the ONS data for mortality, and it shows what I said in above post. So it’s not higher than I think. It is what it is (normal for this time of year).

  • 89 Vanguardfan November 7, 2020, 7:26 pm

    And can you provide a reference to the actual false positive rate for a PCR test?

  • 90 Algernond November 7, 2020, 11:31 pm

    The government don’t know (or is not telling) what the FPR is for the current PCR testing methodology being used. As you can see from the simple example above, it is clearly critical that they should if such testing is to be used to report ‘case’ numbers and infection rate to use for altering our way of life.
    There is much discussion on this from people like Carl Heneghan, Mike Yeadon:


    Mike Yeadon has asked the govt, and not got an answer.
    Julia Hartley-Brewer asked Hancock on Talk Radio and he said < 1%. It’s quite hilarious listening, as he doesn’t appear to understand the above illustrated concept:

    Desmond Swayne asked Hancock, and didn’t get a satisfactory answer:

    Here’s another quite good article on it in the Spectator US:

  • 91 Sparschwein November 8, 2020, 9:36 pm

    There is indeed some discussion about Yeadon & Heneghan in the scientific community. The discussion is, how on earth did those two get their jobs, what are their conflicts of interest or what have they been smoking recently.

    The false positive rate for such PCR tests is typically 0.1% or less. And we routinely sequence full SARS-CoV-2 genomes from positives (over 150 000 sequences and counting).
    Epidemiologists look not only at the absolute number of positives but also at the *fraction* of positive tests that increased by >10-fold in the UK since summer.
    “False positives” do not put people in the hospital or the morgue. And sadly all these metrics are increasing again, all over Europe.

    PCR testing is used worldwide. Test-and-trace is a key element of public health policy. Most countries that have been good at controlling the pandemic rely on extensive testing.
    Whether the UK government can answer this-or-that question is immaterial to the big picture. Although the comparison with Germany shows how a more competent govt makes a difference.

  • 92 The Investor November 9, 2020, 12:53 pm

    Breaking — Pfizer just announced phase 3 vaccine trial results — 90% success at stopping Covid infection! 🙂

  • 93 Jonathan B November 9, 2020, 1:59 pm

    Yes @TI. A minor benefit of the surging infection rate in the US has been exposure of more trial volunteers than would have happened otherwise. Obviously some issues before rollout but great news (safety data still needed, especially since it is a novel vaccine approach, and the issue about logistics given it needs -80C storage).

    In other news, Biden has wasted no time in naming the membership of his Covid-19 task force. He obviously wants to distinguish himself from Trump by the urgency with which he tackles the pandemic.

  • 94 The Investor November 13, 2020, 12:08 pm

    Now they are saying that the second lockdown might have actually caused infections to rise:


    On balance I could see the logic of the tier-ed restrictions (versus national lockdown, which seems to me mostly political) but a bit of me still clings to the *deep breath* ‘virus does what it wants and so anything beyond basic hygiene and social distancing is not worth the cost, especially in the absence of decent track, trace and quarantine’ hypothesis (i.e. Sweden) this was an interesting snippet:

    The introduction of the government’s tier system could have played a role, the researchers said, but the fall was mostly uniform across the country.

    Then, just when it seemed to be heading in the right direction, the outbreak in England jumped again, right before the start of lockdown.

  • 95 The Epidemioligist November 13, 2020, 11:02 pm

    New peer-reviewed paper on CV-19 from the world’s leading epidemiologist:


    The “cure” is worse than the disease.

  • 96 Sparschwein November 17, 2020, 2:03 am

    Some news from Sweden.

    “Sweden has admitted its coronavirus immunity predictions were wrong as cases soar across the country”

    and even the Telegraph titles Sweden ‘got it wrong on herd immunity’.
    *Even the Telegraph*.

  • 97 The Investor November 17, 2020, 9:05 am

    @Sparschwein — Interesting, I was just thinking about yourself and other Swedish doomsters here as I noticed its 7-day average deaths seems to be coming down from its small second peak. 🙂

    Obviously your links are bad reading and the low death rate in its second wave won’t last if infections run out of control of course. Time will tell. I continue to think we’ll only be able to do a final tally when the pandemic has passed.

    What we must be vigilant to remember though is that Sweden didn’t switch off their society and economy, and much of the recession they suffered was imported from those who did, such as us with our 25% GDP crash. So even if they end up with the *same* result us as, death-wise, they far did better than us IMHO.

    Not better than the e.g. track and tracing Asian countries who have seemingly stamped it out, of course.

  • 98 The Investor November 17, 2020, 9:06 am

    p.s. Swedish death data here. Scroll down and select ‘7-day moving average’:


  • 99 Vanguardfan November 17, 2020, 10:34 am

    Sweden’s death reporting apparently lags most other countries and is a week or two delayed:

    If your Swedish (or German) is up to it -mine isn’t – the actual data are here somewhere:

    There is no reason to believe that covid is a different disease in Sweden. IF they have a lower crude death rate at present, most likely explanation is the characteristics of those currently getting the disease (younger, fitter). Our second surge started in the young and fit too.

    Can we at least lay to bed the idea that Sweden’s approach to dealing with this tells us something unexpected about herd immunity or the science of how sars-cov-2 is transmitted? In the spring and summer the excitement about Sweden (for some) was the suggestion that by having a larger initial outbreak they would somehow get over the epidemic quicker (despite the actual data indicating that there was no evidence of higher infection rates/presumed immunity than in other countries with a bad first wave).

    One thing they have certainly done better than the UK, is in being clear in their messaging that behavioural modifications (reducing close contacts between people) would be needed over the long term rather than for a few weeks.

    I am at least hopeful that with the progress in vaccines, this winter will be the worst we experience. Let’s hope the vaccine delivery plan is more competently organised than the rest of it.

    (Pah, got lured into the thread again despite my best intentions).

  • 100 The Investor November 17, 2020, 10:46 am

    Every week there’s another reason why we shouldn’t think Sweden is doing better than it seems.

    I could point you to posts a month ago from others on this thread saying effectively just wait, in two weeks the Stockholm epidemic will be killing thousands.

    Of course it could still happen. Be humble with Covid.

    Can we at least lay to bed the idea that Sweden’s approach to dealing with this tells us something unexpected about herd immunity or the science of how sars-cov-2 is transmitted?

    Completely agree on this. For whatever reason, as I’ve conceded before, my optimism in this regard was misplaced.

    For the reasons discussed at the time, I really didn’t expect a second huge infection wave in hard hit places. And that’s what we’ve seen.

    So I and others were undeniably wrong on that.

  • 101 Grumpy Old Paul November 17, 2020, 12:53 pm

    I have similar feelings abut posting here as @Vanguardfan but these English-language links may be of interest regarding current trends in Sweden:


    I’d better not risk any further comment regarding Sweden being treated as an ad hominem attack.

  • 102 Sparschwein November 17, 2020, 6:21 pm

    As @Vanguardfan mentioned, it is an artefact from Sweden’s reporting that under-reports the last 10 days, therefore the recent trend always appears down.

    “much of the recession they suffered was imported from those who did”
    Where is the evidence that Sweden’s economy had any more headwind from the global recession than comparable countries? Denmark’s Q2 GDP drop was same as Swedens. Norway and Finland did *much better* than Sweden.

    It’s one of those persistent myths that only “the lockdowns” damage the economy, while a rampant pandemic is totally fine, business as usual.

    The Sweden narrative is just a distraction from the many other countries that the UK could (and should) learn from.

  • 103 David November 17, 2020, 9:11 pm

    In comment #86 @Algernond is saying “there’s “no increase in respiratory deaths or ICU admissions in hospitals for this time of year”.

    That sounds like a huge problem to me. After all the lockdowns, social distancing and other measures, we still have typical numbers of people in hospital with respiratory illnesses? There have been warnings for years that a particularly bad flu season would leave the NHS unable to cope. That was even one reason the government wanted the last election over and done with in December rather than later in the winter.

  • 104 Vanguardfan November 18, 2020, 7:53 am

    @David I’m afraid that simply isn’t the case. See figure 13 in this report:

  • 105 The Investor November 18, 2020, 12:24 pm

    It’s one of those persistent myths that only “the lockdowns” damage the economy, while a rampant pandemic is totally fine, business as usual.

    @Sparschwein — You often cite scientific rigour and disdain for hyperbole/theatrics, but once again you have demonstrated you’re quite capable of it yourself. I’m not interested in engaging in straw men. Obviously a pandemic is not “totally fine, business as usual.”

  • 106 Vanguardfan November 28, 2020, 10:56 am

    Re ‘North Dakota is the worst in the world…1 in 1000 residents dead’….I know Newsweek is a US centric publication but I have to comment on this. I hope we in the UK understand that our figures per capita are worse than the US on pretty much every measure (our rate of new cases has just dropped below the US in the last couple of weeks…)

    In England and Wales we also have more than 1 in 1000 residents dead from covid (based on death certificate cause of death).
    By the lower measure of ‘deaths within 28 days of a positive test’, then the whole of North England and the West Midlands are also above 1 in 1000 deaths so far. The worst affected local authorities are closer to 2 per 1000.

    (North Dakota has a tiny population, less than a million. Much smaller than Yorkshire!)

    Death data at the bottom here, look at cumulative deaths:

  • 107 The Investor November 28, 2020, 5:15 pm

    @Vanguardfan — I’m not particularly minded about who has the worst death rate or aiming to defend the Newsweek spin, but according to the data I’m looking at this afternoon we have 57,551 deaths from Covid in the UK. That would be slightly better than 1/1000 on a population of 66million, although certainly getting close.

    Agreed the population of North Dakota is tiny (less than 1m from memory) and I wonder if a town such as Birmingham (UK) would have same order of magnitude of population and a worse death rate.

    The most interesting thing about the North Dakota death toll (standing back from the misery it’s no doubt caused there as elsewhere) is perhaps how far that state is from the big hyper-dense urban centers that dominated the first wave.

  • 108 The Investor November 28, 2020, 5:16 pm

    p.s. Apologies, just saw the deaths on birth certificate figure on your link, which does put us into 1/1000 range, but I’ve not looked at how North Dakota classifies deaths in terms of with-or-by Covid.

  • 109 Vanguardfan November 28, 2020, 6:03 pm

    If you look at the death data at the bottom of the link you can check the cumulative death rate for the UK by country, region and local authority. (that’s why I included the link, but the figures I put in the text are indeed correct).
    I don’t know anything about North Dakota death records either, of course.

  • 110 ermine December 18, 2020, 5:04 pm

    Fait whiff of tumbleweed round here. I don’t hear so much about the Great Barrington Declaration these days, and even over in Sweden questions are being asked in high places

    Folks still of the mind it was all a tremendous overreaction to mildly strongish flu?

  • 111 The Investor December 18, 2020, 10:37 pm

    @ermine — I appreciate you’re being concise for impact, but I’m going to push back at that over-simplification of the diversity of views on Monevator when we were discussing the virus.

    Many of us who didn’t think the policy being pursued was necessarily the right one still didn’t equate it to strong-ish flu, for example. Certainly I didn’t. And I was always alert to the issue that whereas lots of people had *had* flu, none until 2020 had previously had Covid so the impact would have been (and was) much greater than if it had been flu.

    Search for “humble pie” above and you’ll see that I’ve eaten some, which is also why I quietened down on the virus and switched to a more listening role. Some of my hunches at the start of the pandemic were right, a couple were very wrong.

    It was looking shaky for my thesis when the antibody counts were coming in at 10-15% in London in June onwards (and yes, I know about T-cells and we discussed them at the time 🙂 ) which was way too low for my scenario. Even after that (partly because of the T-cell stuff) I still was minded to think we’d avoid a big wave where we’d seen one already.

    That was wrong, clearly, and has been proven wrong for a couple of months now. I long ago saw this second wave as a second wave — again see my comments above — and wasn’t one of those denying it. Again, I piped down. When the facts change I change my mind.

    Set against all that though is what we should have done with this threat? I am still not at all convinced the response we took was right, although that’s not the same as saying it isn’t explicable. Clearly it was a very difficult call, albeit compounded by incompetence it seems almost at every stage. (See the Tortoise ‘inquiry’ in this week’s links).

    Perhaps if we’d been able to do total lockdowns and the test-and-trace follow-ups properly — most notably like Asian countries — then shutting down the economy would make more sense to me. But I never thought we could, we haven’t, and we’re still 10% GDP or similar in the hole let alone the direct costs of support, which isn’t to even count all the other emotional and psychological costs of social isolation etc, and the wastefulness of a stop-start economy.

    Also, we’re not far from ‘lapping’ the anniversary of Covid in the UK. This is a sensitive subject that deserves more than some ill-thought out words late on a Friday night, but…given it’s been nearly a year, how dramatic really is the near-70,000 deaths with Covid last time I looked?

    As I noted back in March to some disdain, 600,000 people a year die in the UK. And indeed the last time I saw the excess death figures (from the BMJ, a couple of weeks ago) they were not wildly outlandish. Yes they were unpleasant and there’s no doubt thousands of people have died, perhaps more unpleasantly than they would have, before their time because of coronavirus.

    But we live in a country of 66 million people, and every one of us has been affected by the measures we took. One wonders what Jeremy Bentham would say… I’ve discussed what I only later learned is called the “identifiable victim effect” many times on Monevator, and I still think we’ve barely understood what’s gone on here on that score.

    From the start I thought we should make more use of the fact that the virus is hugely discriminating firstly by age and secondly by underlying health conditions. We did eventually do that in a half-arsed way, but I think we got the worst of all worlds really — kids condemned for trying to be kids in their first week at university, and old infected people sent back to care homes, a royally-rogered economy and unfortunately tens of thousands of deaths anyway.

    For this reason and others I still wouldn’t point fingers at Sweden and condemn them, though I concede the death count has mounted there now, too, sadly.

    Very few countries have covered themselves with glory outside of Asia, where the measures are still basically unthinkable to how we go about life in the West.

    A friend of mine returned to China recently with her family — they are all in quarantine, in a State-selected hotel, for a mandatory *two weeks*, apart from each other, with food brought to their rooms. Again, for two weeks!

    This is a gazillion miles from anything we’ve done here, and in a country where there’s barely any Covid. In our country our Government would probably have been giving vouchers to new arrivals at the airport for the nearest nightclub, and shaking their hands before they departed.

    ‘Mixed messages’ doesn’t really cover it. It’s more like a mash-up album done by several DJs on strong hallucinogenics. (But there’s some hindsight speaking there, obviously. Or perhaps acid flashbacks…)

  • 112 Barn Owl December 27, 2020, 8:50 pm

    @TI I really appreciate you having sufficient self-confidence to say that you have changed your mind in the light of evidence. I support freedom of speech, but am still amazed at the people stating on this thread, supported by some data analysis from non-epidemiologists, that we had already reached heard immunity. We clearly had not.

    But the UK government has been steering the line between protecting the economy and overloading the NHS at the pretty high level of infection. This is a painful way to manage the disease and without a vaccine would have led to years and years of lockdowns, or giving up and letting the virus rip with 10x the fatalities we have seen to date.

    Are we too proud in the west to learn from the Asian countries that have maintained this virus at a much lower level? China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand. It means more infringement of civil liberties to stamp out the virus at the start. It’s a question of how socially unacceptable is it to spread a deadly disease. @TI, I think you dismiss this as impossible for the UK too quickly. Culture changes. There are many examples of this trade-off between common good and individual freedom. For example, drink driving used to be acceptable. I am not sure what the right balance is, but I think it should be explored rather than dismissed out of hand.

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