Public Health

When Policy is Impaled on a COVID spike

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced in early July that “when COVID is like the flu, we should treat it like the flu, and that means no lockdowns”. Did this mean he had finally run up the white flag in Australia’s damaging, quixotic quest to achieve ‘Zero Covid’? The intention to ditch that fantasy policy goal — if the Prime Minister is to be believed — signals a welcome acceptance of the reality that the Wuhan virus will be with us forever, a seasonal respiratory wog we will have to manage like all the others.

At first blush, Morrison’s announcement seems to chime with the budding trend internationally towards ‘learning to live with the virus’, rather than suppressing or eliminating it. Although New Zealand, under the sensible Birkenstock heel of Zero Covid Queen Jacinda Ardern (a kind of woke Hilda Rumpole with better teeth), is determined never to rest until the last possibility of infection is wiped forever from the Land of the Long White Cloud, all US states are up and running lockdown-free, Singapore has abandoned lockdowns, and in the UK, where Freedom Day has dawned, the new Health Secretary is saying “We are going to have to learn to accept COVID”. The opening of this new rhetorical détente in World War CCOVID could signal a breaking of the spell of coronadoom, a start to the ending of the delusional psychosis that has gripped the planet at both elite and popular levels for the last miserable year and a half.

In announcing the national cabinet’s four-phase plan to end Australia’s yo-yo cycles of lockdowns and border blockades triggered by handfuls of community-transmission ‘cases’, Mr Morrison now speaks of changing the terms of statistical reference from positive tests to “serious illness, hospitalisation and fatality”.  These new metrics are vastly preferable to the inevitably alarmist stats of positive test results in which it is difficult to invest much faith. The fact of the matter, as as even Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration concedes, is that the tests are inaccurate to the point of being dodgy, delivering a goodly dose of false positives for we used to call ‘the healthy’.

Devoid of timeframes, concrete key performance indicators and politicians more fixated on their electoral health than the greater public’s wellbeing, the grand exit from lockdown has all the solidity of a house of cards, an edifice of political expedience and unconvincingly proclaimed optimism which could be knocked over by any state premier in response to even a single rogue virus ‘escaping’ from medi-hotel quarantine.  As the current lockdown spasms of Gladys, Dan and all the rest demonstrate, the national cabinet agreement may not be worth the paper it’s printed on, the state premiers’ wheels seemingly still spinning in the mud of ‘phase one’ of the plan to suppress the virus through costly closed borders, ruinous lockdowns and the frantic sport of trace-test-isolate-then-hold-a-press-conference).

Slippery, invertebrate politicians make for unreliable route guides out of perpetual lockdowns.  State and federal political leaders have been politically and psychologically invested in ‘Zero Covid’ for so long  they can hardly be expected to reverse course and tell the punters that ‘Well, now that you mention it, a few community cases are acceptable after all’. That would amount to is an admission everything done, and all the sacrifices made under threat of fine and harassment, were for nought. You’d need the imagination of JRR Tolkein to picture a premier or prime minister saying ‘Sorry about wrecking your economic well-being, ruining your recreational pleasures, stuffing your kids’ education, causing more (non-COVID) health harm than lockdowns have prevented. And apologies, too, for all the social distancing nonsense borrowed from the Theatre of the Absurd, for banning church attendance while allowing brothels to operate and blowing millions of dollars on phone apps that neither stopped nor traced a single infection.’ If there is one thing history teaches us it’s that politicians never hesitate to double down on failure if such a move postpones or obscures their responsibility for it. So ‘Zero Covid’ no doubt remains the tune they just can’t get out of their heads, the security blanket they reach for when rising case numbers on their watch herald a mauling in the media and the polls.

The game-changer?

The arrival of  the various COVID vaccines, however, has potentially disrupted this static policy framework.  ‘Vaxxing’ our way out of lockdowns — the original political sales pitch for the vaccines by pro-lockdown politicians — looks set to strut the political stage in earnest.  The non-pharmaceutical interventions such as lockdowns and masks have been laughably useless but there is now the non-non-pharmaceutical intervention of a vaccine.  Treating COVID “like the flu” may well mean treating it through mass vaccination whilst still keeping what was a pretty ordinary, and becoming ever more unremarkable, coronavirus at elevated fear levels (‘Watch out!  It’s the dreaded Delta variant!’) to justify all the past actions — a political face-saver for politicians initially panicked into lockdown over-reaction.

Hence the current ‘vaccine’ frenzy designed to bump up Australia’s current 10 per cent fully-vaxxed rate (one third partially-jabbed) to something suitable to providing herd immunity.  Leave aside that, uniquely in the history of virology, herd immunity apparently can’t now be achieved by prior cross-immunity from related coronaviruses (including the common cold and SARS1) or recovery from natural infection.  Leave aside, too, the question of how the COVID vaccines can deliver herd immunity, when, by the manufacturers’ and regulators’ own admissions, they do not prevent anyone from catching the disease or passing it on; rather, they simply reduce some of the more severe symptoms. If our politicians are to dig themselves out of their lockdown foxholes, it’s COVID vaccines or nothing.

Worryingly, national cabinet is contracting the Doherty Institute (sired by the University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Hospital) to come up with an appropriate vax-induced “herd immunity threshold”. Ah, more ‘expert modelling’ from the folks who, back in early 2020, came up with terrifying predictions that 150,000 Australians would die from the virus unless borders were closed and lockdowns implemented. These manic modellers primed their black boxes of computational wizardry with wildly over-the-top assumptions (especially the ‘R’ rate and an infection fatality rate) borrowed uncritically from dodgy Wuhan data and the shonky Imperial College London modelling of Neil Ferguson which panicked (‘500,000 will die unless you do as we say!’) Boris Johnson and Donald Trump (‘2.2 million Americans will perish!’) into disastrous lockdowns against their better political instincts. Do they borrow the solons of statistical projection borrow their methods from climate modellers? So off the mark have been their prognostications that  the cross-pollination of error and assumption must be considered a strong possibility. Let us at least be grateful that, given Melbourne University’s involvement, Professor Bruce Pascoe won’t be adding indigenous knowledge of genetics and virology into the mix.

Supping once more from the same cauldron of COVID-kooky modelling, governments and their worrywart experts could well find vax-induced herd immunity thresholds being set so unachievably high (90%? 95%?, 99%?) as to effectively rule out the final ending of lockdowns, given that one in three Australians is set to decline the jab (half of these are adamant they will never, ever roll up their sleeves, with the other half  ‘not very likely’ to do so), despite the ABC’s endlessly repeated blockbuster production of ‘How I learned to stop worrying and love the jab’ screening every night plus matinees.  Adopting an unrealistically high herd immunity threshold would be further depressing evidence that the federal and state governments’ aim remains ‘Zero Covid’ and the elimination of any community transmission. This time, though, it will be — fingers crossed — through the vax rather than via lockdowns, masks, curfews and, in Victoria, Daniel Andrews’ Praetorian Guard, aka VicPol,  knocking down the doors of citizens of whose opinions the Premier disapproves and arresting pyjama-clad pregnant ladies in their kitchens.

 

The Devil’s stamp in your ‘vaccine passport’

Never mind, yield to the pressure to have the jab and, as a reward, you get to join the ranks of the medically elite courtesy of a ‘vaccine passport’ intended to coerce or bribe Australians to roll up their sleeves and submit to an experimental gene-editing treatment.  Your ‘Freedom Pass’ will allow you to leap Australia’s tightly barricaded international borders and closed-open-closed-again state borders in a single privileged bound and to be exempt from lockdown and other domestic restrictions. Well that is what they tell us anyway.  Decline the jab, and you don’t get the freedom goodie bag.

Any vaccine passport, however, may face a rocky future.  Israel implemented one only to see the system fall apart after less than three months because venues did not enforce it, as also happened with uber-Democrat New York’s brief venture into medical apartheid.  In Britain, when the Night Time Industries Association surveyed 250 nightclubs in response to government ‘urging’ the industry to adopt proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, it found 83 per cent of clubs can’t or won’t do any such thing.  In France, Macron has proposed sweeping vax-passport discrimination (including restricting access to shopping centres and supermarkets) and this prompted not only a vaccine-booking rush but street rioting (which was met with tear-gassing on Bastille Day by a police force conveniently exempted from de facto mandatory vaccination).  Moscow city authorities have repealed their order for vaccine passports at restaurants because of the economic hit the establishments were taking.

The fate of any vaccine-passport could also hinge on public awareness of the illogic that underwrites such a measure.  If the vaccines work, and if they render immunity, then the vaxxed have nothing to fear from rubbing shoulders with the unvaxxed; if they don’t work too well, as the rising number of infections and hospitalisations amongst the vaxxed (including the double-jabbed UK Health Secretary) is beginning to show), then the vaxxed aren’t in a very position from the unvaxxed, save for official assurances that they’ll get less sick than the un-jabbed. In other words, no freedom from masks and other restrictions on normal life.

A vax passport, as with everything in the entire misbegotten response to the virus, is utterly pointless in health terms – it’s all been political theatre, of equal parts tragedy and farce, designed as arse-covering for the authors of a steaming pile of ineffective, rights-infringing, economy-wrecking, extra-legal horse manure.

In the Australian parliament, at this stage, only a handful of principled Liberals (Matt Canavan and Alex Antic) and one former Liberal (Craig Kelly), as well as a typically defiant Pauline Hanson, have publicly opposed a vaccine passport. From Labor and the Greens, total silence, naturally. Sadly and based on form, we can expect Prime Minister Weathervane to go with the pro-passport flow unless genuine small-l Liberals come out of their closets.

If the federal and state governments’ intention to introduce vax passport does eventuate, it would be another example of how, contrary to Mr Morrison’s statement, we won’t be treating COVID ‘just like the flu’.  The flu has properly-vetted, traditional annual vaccines for which refusing it incurs no threat of second-class citizenship. Moreover, should vaccine makers send out a deficient or deadly batch of a flu vaccine, the courts are available for the injured to seek recompense. With the COVID vaccines, no such luck. Big Pharma has been indemnified against legal liability, so you’ll just have to like and lump any adverse consequence now or down the road. Despite the Prime Minister’s proclaimed new perspective, when it comes to vaccines, COVID is being treated in exactly the opposite manner to the flu.

 

Why the change?

Nevertheless, a road out of lockdown (albeit a vax-driven, ‘Papers please!’ one) is finally on the table and the formerly heretical words about treating the virus just like the flu (“Ah-ha, you must be one of those granny-killing, let-it-rip, virus-denying, evil Tory/Wicked Republican, Trump groupies who places corporate profit ahead of saving lives”) have now at least been uttered by those who matter.

Why the change?  Population fatigue with the whole COVID circus?  Focus groups giving forthright views of how fed up they are with repeated lockdowns and closed borders?  More prominent voices like Warren Mundine‘s venting how sick he is of COVID bureaucrats telling us what we can and can not do?  When even dear old Leunig, patron icon of inner-city refrigerator doors too numerous to count, began recording his dissatisfaction?  Or was it lobbying by peak industry groups and a quiet word in the government’s ear?

Probably all of the above.  We have, as a result, been given a glimpse of the sunlit uplands of the lockdown-free Old Normal.  The current, desperate rehashing of lockdowns by Gladys and Dan may be occluding that vision just at the moment but, as the virus steadily regresses through the Greek alphabet on its way to becoming just another relatively mild, common-cold-causing coronavirus, it could be the light on the hill of better days ahead that keeps us going.  If the broad Australian public, which has so far acquiesced meekly to lockdowns and associated indignities, doesn’t get a grip on its endangered liberties and hang on to them with all its might, Australia as a liberal democracy is cactus.

What the crystal ball says

Nothing lasts forever and the current madness will surely pass, eventually.  Enough of the vax ‘undecideds’ will be propagandised or shamed (‘no one is safe unless we are all safe!’) or cajoled/coerced, bullied and bribed by a vaccine passport to take a swig of the pharmaceutical hooch to reach a scientifically arbitrary but politically symbolic herd-immunity threshold that enables the federal and state governments to declare mission accomplished.

The vaxxed will be relieved of their social obligation to get tested as a work requirement, the ‘case’ count will fall and, voila, the pandemic (which amongst those without co-morbidities was largely only ever a ‘test-a-demic’) will be declared to be at an end, and we can all get down to spending the next few decades repairing the economic and social damage.

Lockdown, masks and all the other exhibits from the Great Virus War, however, are unlikely to be retired, as they should, to a Museum of Political Folly. Instead, expect them to remain on the books of the public health junta, who have grown alarmingly fond of their new powers. Count on their future use because, as we’ll be told, they worked so well last time.

14 comments
  • ianl

    Despite the mockery of the Doherty Institute here, though it has some grain of truth to it, the modelling answer to the cut point of vaccination rate against removal of restrictions has a real value provided it is released to the public *in full*. I’m aware this will never happen. Public Health bureaucrats, all bureaucrats, equate release of unexpurgated information with the medieval method of removing fingernails (theirs).
    The “National” Cabinet ostensibly agreed to wait for this modelling till the end of July. Within an hour of that commitment, the MSM, politicians, CMO’s and yacketty academics were all trashing it.
    So we are left with State CMO’s and politicians deciding this under a dank, dark, very thick, nationwide cloak of fear that they themselves stoke. We continue to drown in the sour stifling failed fermentation of fear.
    And as noted a day or two ago, there is still no sensible, practical answer to the unlocking of the country that will convince the fearful.

  • rod.stuart

    An unexpectly entertaining read about the ignorance and failure of our elected representatives.
    Unfortuantely, the fallout from this escapade will be far from comedy.

  • rod.stuart

    This pretty well sums it all up.
    https://youtu.be/Nyvxt1svxso

  • ianl

    Now we have at 8am Thursday July 22, the PM and other politicians publicly hammering the very same “Health Advice” (ATAGI) that only yesterday was some version of Writ for the faithful. Dissent was then equivalent to eating babies for breakfast.
    An obvious split in the Nanny State – the pretence is over. The various mutations of C-19 have won, coronavirus cannot be eliminated from the planet. As Delta spreads across the country, the panic will ramp. Now it’s becoming scary.

  • Peter Marriott

    Beautifully put Phil and good to read. One point, I don’t think ANY of the ‘two stringed’ virus ( like covid ) vaccines have ever been touted as giving total protection from catching the virus, including the flu vaccine that I get every year….my doctor always emphasises that it won’t completely stop you catching it, but it’ll be mild if you do, which is the same for covid flu ; only supposed single stringed things like small pox etc vaccines can get anywhere near full protection I think. The novel genetic vaccines for covid, like astra-zeneca etc can give SOME protection though, I read, UP to about 50% supposedly…..on a good day. I seem to remember reading once that the standard flu shot gets up to around 60%…..also of course on a good day ?

  • pgang

    What’s astonishing is the depth of destruction towards which this government is willing to take us to gain absolutely nothing. This willingness towards Australia’s cultural and economic death is pure socialism.
    I don’t think we had any idea, prior to 2020, of how far our politics had fallen. There were plenty of signs – the de-carbonisation debacle, homosexual marriage, and let’s face it, a long litany of other miserable impositions and idiocies. But now we know and we are beginning to see the future more clearly.

  • Lewis P Buckingham

    ianl Yesterday afternoon I turned on Sky and saw Prof Sutton then the Prime Minister speaking on the same subjects. Morrison was on top of his game and answering Covid questions as they came thick and fast.
    He was so good I wondered if our ABC was covering him.
    Going to Channel 2 the ABC was screening a soapie.
    There has been a big shift to the approach to this viral outbreak.
    It emerges after close questioning of the PM.
    The states have to provide half the business support, but have the exclusive constitutional power to impose health order restraint and lockdowns.
    So suddenly they have skin in the game and cannot blame the Commonwealth for a lack of support for business.
    The idea of suppression is creeping in rather than total elimination.
    Hence the delay of deciding when herd immunity is achieved.
    So they are watching the UK and Denmark as these open to ‘liberation’.
    Prof Sutton was talking about the best practice QR codes, quicker testing, types of lockdowns, use of surveillance and cc cameras to see who and how close people infected were and so forth.
    A few days ago the pressure was on to lock down now as ‘we all know that short sharp lockdowns stop the virus, the science is in’.
    So we are watching a huge longitudinal trial testing this hypothesis.
    The subjects are NSWelshmen and Victorians.
    The first had a slow lockdown and the second a fast lock down.
    In the animal model you isolate and treat or slaughter the infected and ring vaccinate the rest.
    In this human model you detect isolate and treat the infected and madly vaccinate the area around the outbreak while contact tracing.
    The problem for the above correspondent and for me is that no one actually knows how to beat this variant.
    To ‘live with it’ means all the outliers in the community with undetected immune suppression or who decide it’s not worth being vaccinated are sitting ducks for new and more infectious variants.
    This virus behaves as if it were weaponised.
    Other cold viruses just fade away in time.
    The UK population is the out of contact control with tracking, ‘high herd immunity’ and a rebellious population.
    So while the public wants answers, the trials are going on in front of them.
    So far the prognosis is not good for the UK.
    On the subject that shutting the economy is bad for people and the economy.
    The response by Sutton was that if let rip it would be worse for the economy.
    So one metric needs adding, that of mental health and suicide.
    This could be added to the death toll
    caused by ‘treatment’.

  • Biggles

    Pgang. Don’t be ‘astonished’, certainly not in the case of Victoria. Andrews is an ignorant, starry-eyed Trotskyite, a man who would not recognise or understand free-enterprise if it spat in is eye. Trotsky was a torturer and a murderer who believed in continuous violent revolution. Destruction of Victoria’s economy and the cowing of her citizens is straight from the KGB playbook on ideological subversion. Perhaps Andrews believes he will be rewarded if Australia becomes a Chinese province. If so, more fool he. His ‘reward’ will be to be among the first stood against the wall and shot.

  • Peter Marriott

    Lewis, our Premier in Qld. certainly has skin in the game and is using one of the Socialists favourite diversions on the people, to get around the hatred of enforced mask wearing etc. & Roman Emperor’s used it as well, come to think of it….fun and games . For the Emperor’s it was shows in the Colosseam , for us it’s the ever more incredible Olympic Games, with all the right, political correct, opening ceremonies and a few more wasted billions in debt. Reminds me of Hillare Belloc’s prescient 1912 ‘Servile State’ and his four interests behind the idealist ideology in Socialism. There was the IDEALIST of course with little if any interest in freedom or enterprise, only the welfare state ; but the last one pretty well seems to fit our context these days….the ordinary masses losing the habits of freedom and living in fear of something, and ever prepared to sacrifice more of it for state controls that guarantee social security and pagan hedonism.

  • nfw

    What is that picture at the top of the article? The “experts” have never been able to photo the Wuhan Sniffles and now the Delta/Lambda/Xi Variant/Strain/mutation, ie the seasonal winter common cold. The depiction is misleading at best and a lie at worst.

  • Andrew Griffiths

    This article has attracted a lot of comments, most of them silly and uninformed.Who is Tony Shannon and what are his qualifications to present his opinions on what is very difficult public health issue? It is interesting that Robert Clancy has written on this subject recently published in Quadrant Magazine,most informative and the author has expertise in the subject, but the article attracted no comments whatever.A lot of Quadrant readers seem to be of the view that the Wuhan virus and its symptoms are a conspiracy.

  • Lewis P Buckingham

  • pgang

    Always love the irony of the silly and uninformed calling out the silly and uninformed for being silly and uninformed.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    Thanks for your good coverage of the mess our politicians have got us into by drinking the Kool-Aid of ‘expert modellers’. As with so-called ‘climate change’, a model is only as good as its inputs and parameters, and so many epidemiological modellers do not factor in human responses to threats and other confounding factors in the human and viral environment which will greatly affect their projections. No surprise that Neil Ferguson from Imperial College, who is still proferring his alarmism, is up to his neck in ‘climate modelling’ too and that his prediction success rate on health matters has been disastrous even before his Covid capers (Mad Cow Disease anyone?). Covid is a real threat, a nasty virus with a worrying ‘gain of function’ aspect, causing vascular disease, and we are only now beginning to understand it. I am glad we have vaccines, imperfect as they may be so far. In terms of side-effects, I prefer the AZ to the Pfizer/Moderna so it’s rather ironic to me that we can’t get people to take our plentiful AZ. Lockdown fatigue is certainly setting in, as you note, and as lockdowns do little except flatten the hospitalisation curve, we need to face facts in Australia and get out of the endless lockdown/elimination cycle we are in. Canute couldn’t hold back the tides and nor can we in Australia with Covid. We need to set a date by which all those who want the vax have the vax and then open up. I doubt if Ivermectin will be released for general use till after that date, as it wlll hinder vax take up, but I can see it coming after the open date given the vax resistance in our population. I’m vaxed but definitely want the Ivermectin pak available as an extra back up for early treatment when travelling. We should also be offering it right now in the early stages all all who test positive .

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