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It's too soon to freak out

Good morning! New South Wales reversed course on a plan to send HSC students back to in-person schooling by mid-August, with the government saying it has to "adjust our policies according to what's happening". The backflip came after another two further deaths, a woman in her 80s and a man in his 20s, along with the state's third worst day for case numbers, with 233 reported.

In Queensland there were 17 new locally acquired cases reported yesterday, with chief health officer Jeannette Young stating "if we don't do something really, really, really special in Queensland, we'll be extending the lockdown [beyond Sunday]". 😔


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The US S&P500 fell 0.46% overnight after an abysmal ADP payroll report showed just 330,000 new private sector jobs were created in July, well down on the 680,000 added in June and the lowest total since February. Locally, the ASX200 (+0.38%) hit a fresh record high, crossing 7,500 points for the first time ever thanks to strong gains from the big miners including BHP (+2.1%) and Rio Tinto (+1.5%).

Lockdown blues: Australian retail sales fell 1.8% in June, with the largest falls in states that were locked down for all or part of the month, namely Victoria (-4.0%) and New South Wales (-2.0%). As you might expect, supermarket and grocery stores (+1.5%) and liquor retailers (+1.3%) fared relatively well, while sales at clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailers (-9.5%) and department stores (-7.0%) were hammered.

COVID-free bliss: StatsNZ reported that unemployment in New Zealand fell to just 4% in the June quarter (from 4.6%), well below Treasury's forecast of 5.2%. The labour market pressure has started to impact wages, with average hourly earnings rising by 4% from June 2020 and 0.7% from the March quarter, which could stoke inflation fears – ANZ New Zealand now expects the RBNZ to raise the cash rate this month.

Buy now, pay later getting crowded: Citi became the latest member of the financial establishment to announce its foray into the buy now, pay later space, revealing a new product – 'Spot' – that it plans to launch in Australia later this year. If you register your interest before 22 September the bank will give you a free $25 when it launches, so long as you spend $50 within 30 days of setting up your account.

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It's too soon to freak out

Israel's government is freaking out about rising case numbers, which have grown to around 4,000 per day – the first time they've been that high since March. The number of patients in a serious condition is also at a four-month high, leading the government to approve a raft of new restrictions on activity yesterday. But while that's all correct, it's also true that COVID-19 hospitalisations (-83.9%) and deaths (-94.3%) remain significantly below their January peaks.

For context, on a population-adjusted basis the number people currently hospitalised in Israel is about 27% higher than the number hospitalised with COVID-19 in locked-down New South Wales.

Chart showing cases, deaths and hospitalisations in Israel.
A fourth wave is here but it's too early to panic.

Stepping back: Vaccinations don't prevent COVID-19 from spreading entirely, especially not the Delta variant, which is more successful at vaccine 'breakthrough' than its predecessors (~2.6% breakthrough infection rate). Over half of the new cases in Israel are amongst vaccinated individuals, which is exactly what you would expect when the majority (62%) of the population is fully vaccinated.

Why this matters: Vaccines are still very good at preventing serious disease – Israeli data show that the share of cases that become critically ill has fallen to 1.6% from the 4% recorded at a similar stage during the most recent wave, pre-vaccinations. That means "many more cases will be needed... to reach similarly high numbers of critically ill patients in the hospitals". As more people get vaccinated, that rate should drop even further.

In other words, it's too soon to freak out. Lots of stuff kills people every year and COVID-19 will probably become endemic, continuing to cause harm for some time – just nowhere near the levels we were seeing before vaccines were available.

Tokyo 2020 🗼

There was just a single gold medal added to Australia's tally yesterday, with Mat Belcher and Will Ryan avoiding disqualification to take out the men's 470 class sailing.

Australia also added bronze medals in the men's Team Pursuit cycling and the 10km women's marathon swim, courtesy of Kareena Lee – Australia's first ever medal in the event.

Unfortunately the Opals crashed and burned in the women's basketball, notching up their lowest score in 21 years in a heavy 79-55 loss to tournament favourites Team USA.

Image showing Nicholas Hough hitting a hurdle.
Poor bugger.

Finally, if you missed the 110m hurdles semi final Aussie Nicholas Hough managed to hit Every. Single. Hurdle, revealing afterwards that he was battling a calf injury.

Medal tally




1 🇨🇳 China




2 🇺🇸 United States




3 🇯🇵 Japan




4 🇬🇧 Great Britain




5 🇦🇺 Australia




The Wrap Up

  • 🤑 Sounds legit. The federal health department is paying a PR firm "to take a copy of its daily PDF of vaccination data, attach it to an email, and send it to media outlets".
  • 📮 Four Cartier watches gifted to senior executives – $A20,000. Forcing the CEO to resign over it – $A1.1 million, excluding Australia Post's legal costs. Total cost to taxpayers – at least $A1.12 million. 🤦‍‍♀️
  • 🏡 US President Biden signed a new moratorium on evictions in areas of the country with high or substantial transmission of COVID-19, although admitted that it was "not likely to pass constitutional muster".
  • 💉 A new study from the UK found that mostly unvaccinated 5- to 24-year-olds accounted for 50% of all new COVID-19 infections, even though they are only 25% of the population.
  • 🧊 This actually happened – "Three people were injured at Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge [Tennessee] after an iceberg wall collapsed."
  • 😲 A LaGuardia airport (New York) bar is charging $US27.85 pint of Sam Adams Summer Ale, which retails for about $US1.5 a bottle. Oh and that doesn't include tip or a 10% 'Covid-19 Recovery Charge'.
  • 🦗 Australia lost a T20 match to Bangladesh for the first time ever, bowled over for just 108 to lose by 23 runs.
  • 🦘 Wallabies Marika Koroibete, Isi Naisarani and Pone Fa'amausili will not be selected for the first Bledisloe Cup match on Saturday after breaching team protocols "by continuing to drink alcohol well beyond an agreed time".
  • 👨‍⚕️ Australians under 40 can now get an AstraZeneca jab from a pharmacist without consulting a general practitioner.
  • 🎂 Former US President Obama cancelled his massive birthday bash at the last minute due to growing public backlash, and will now "include only family and close friends".