Public Health

Doesn’t Work, Won’t Work, Can’t Work

Here we go again. The one-week snap lockdown by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, true to form, has turned into four weeks and it is anyone’s guess how long the latest extension will last, quite possibly at least until November. Who knows, possibly forever?

For more than 18 months the states have used lockdowns to suppress the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  At first, the short, sharp lockdowns seemed to contain the virus in its first and second waves.  But now, as the Delta variant rides the third wave, it must be obvious that this approach has failed. Tougher masking restrictions, travel limits, closed playgrounds, curfews, threats, fines, arrests of dissenters (see the video below) — the virus remains unchanged while traditional liberties and free speech go down for the count.

Given COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon, we are going to have to learn to live with the virus.  But like the obsequious advisers who attempted to flatter King Canute by feigning the belief that he had the power to turn back the tide, some State premiers think they can stop new cases of the corona-virus with lockdowns and masks. They’re not entirely stupid, these premiers, so they must realise by now that this is impossible to eliminate the virus, meaning their collective refusal to consider other approaches must be due to an unwillingness to appreciate the obvious. From talk of eliminating the virus, the premiers and their CMOs now speak guardedly of ‘learning to live with the virus’, yet they continue to pursue the same failed methods while promising that all will be well when 70 per cent or 80 per cent — they seem unable to settle on a firm number — are vaccinated.

Have they not heard of what is happening in Israel, the fabled 80 per cent was reached and the hospitals are once again replete with COVID patients. Surely our leaders know this, know that the vaccines are no absolute remedy? If they don’t, they should. If they do know, they are lying about vaccinations being the door that repopens on our suspended freedoms.

Common sense, rationality and, most missed of all, honesty have all but disappeared.  One can only wish the premiers would try something different, other than the endless cycle of lockdowns, border closures, opening up/ locking down again. One popular definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. Victoria has so far tried this through six – repeat six! – lockdowns, making Daniel Andrews’ kingdom the most locked-down jurisdiction in the entire world. Anyone who believes there won’t be a seventh lockdown (and an eighth, ninth, tenth…) is invited to place a bid for the Westgate Bridge.

A new approach has been implemented by Singapore, Denmark and the United Kingdom, all having realised that while measures to contain the virus are needed they also grasp their economies need to be protected and civil liberties restored for the mental health of citizens and their democracy.

The UK decided to open up in July and there has been no unmanageable dramatic upsurge in hospitalisations.  It’s interesting to note that the UK opened up when while recording over 20,000 new cases each day. Meanwhile, Australian premiers and their health advisors freak out and boot toddlers from the swings and slides over a relative few new cases.

Has anyone in the media challenged the Premier Andrews to provide a cost-benefit analysis of his lockdowns?  Has any reporter quizzed him about the near-vertical decline in cases witnessed in India when ivermectin was handed out at the height of the Delta wave two months ago? We don’t hear much about India’s COVID experience lately, unlike June, when every website and front page was reporting that there just wasn’t enough wood in the Subcontinent to burn all the bodies. Suddenly, India’s chart of daily cases look fantastic …. and the media chooses not to report it.

Professor Philip Thomas, from  Bristol University in the UK, said that his own cost-benefit analysis, the only comprehensive one which has been done to his knowledge, reveals that for every one life saved by a lockdown, nine would be lost in the short to medium term due to such things as depression, suicide, isolation and deferment of medial treatments and tests. Thomas, whose specialty is risk management, sees a slump in economic output of around 9 per cent.

 

We have to try something different

The media have let down their fellow Australians and the ethics of their craft by tirelessly feeding into a narrative refreshed and renewed daily by live broadcasts of dog and pony shows in which the premiers and CMOs package the bad news in the grimmest possible terms. We might, for example, have been well served had their been more coverage of Singapore turning a new page in its handling of COVID — an approach which eschews lockdowns and other severe measures.  No quarantine, no tests and no daily numbers, that’s how Singapore rolls these days, treating the virus like other endemic diseases such as the flu. Denmark, too, is taking the same path, removing all COVID restrictions as of September 10.

There will be no goals of zero transmissions in Singapore’s city state.  Quarantine will be dumped for travellers and close contact of cases will not have to isolate. Senior Singaporean ministers have said it is the “new normal”, thereby setting an example of how to live with COVID-19 instead of merely talking about it, as in Australia.

 

Tell people the good news

Its time the media and politicians replaced the negative and sombre “new cases” daily bulletins, which are depressing and sending out the wrong messages. Why not place things in context and position the announcement of new virus deaths with deaths from other causes such as heart disease, flu and falling off ladders?

In 2019, according to the ABS, there were 169,301 deaths  from all causes in Australia; that’s 463 deaths per day on average. Today, September 2, COVID deaths in all of Australia came to nine (seven in NSW, two in Victoria). It was the worst day so far in the third wave, but that body count still amounts to only 2.4 per cent of the daily average.

According Worldometer, Australia has had 53,856 corona-virus cases with 1,006 deaths, giving a death rate of 1.86 per cent. Again, Again according to Worldometer,  there have been 217,826,784 cases of COVID worldwide and 4,522,320  deaths – which represents a death rate of 2.07%.  Nasty on the face of it, but bear in mind that the 4.5 million deaths are those diagnosed as such. Factor in the asymptomatic cases and those going unreported and the fatallity rate will decline further.

 

Hospitals

The major justification for the lockdowns is to protect the public health system, a worthy objective. Currently in Australia there are 876 corona-virus patients (as of August 29) in a hospital system with 61,000  public hospital beds and 33,100 in private hospitals, a total of 94,000 beds. Yes, the hospitals are stressed and ICU units are under pressure, but when the premiers bring out a nurse to speak of the long hours she and her colleagues are working and the discomfort of the full PPE gear they must wear, keep this at front of mind: the UK, with 2.46 hospital beds per 1000 population, managed the various COVID waves without being hopelessly swamped. Australia’s beds-per-thousand? A comforting 3.84.

If governments feel there is a need for more capacity in the public hospital system or more trained staff are needed, well they have had a year and a half to build more capacity into the system and train more staff. Singapore after the SARS-2 outbreak in 2009, built a  dedicated 300-bed facility to cope with future pandemics. When COVID-19 started in Wuhan the Chinese built a 400-bed facility within 10 days.

These measure are much better responses that attempting batter the virus into submission with the the blunt instrument of repeated lockdowns.

The solution to preventing deaths is staring us in the face; it’s just that our leaders aren’t paying attention. The best course has always been to isolate and protect the most vulnerable — elderly people with underlying health issues in particular. Our panic-driven premiers and health authorities give the false impression that everyone is at equal risk from the virus. This is not backed by the data. Indeed, to witness how determined they are to spread this notion, just watch the enthusiasm whenever they get to announce that someone outside the most vulnerable demographic has passed away. Remember the 15-year-old ‘COVID victim’? Turns out he had meningitis. Another youthful victim whose death was initially attributed to COVID was later revealed to have been a hard-core drug addict.

Currently 55.3 per cent of the population over 16 have had one jab and 33.9 per cent have had two doses. In the over-70 age bracket, the most vulnerable group, 85.1 per cent have had one dose and 60.9 per cent have been fully vaccinated. If Victoria and the other states were to open up, the evidence would suggest we can expect a small spike but our health system will not be overwhelmed, given the high vaccination rates amongst the most vulnerable.

While vaccines certainly have their place, they are no silver bullet and won’t stop people from getting the virus or from passing it on – even Lock ’em Down Dan publicly acknowledges as much.

 

Looking to the future

The Prime Minister and  premiers have said that even if the fully-vaccinated reach the levels they demand, lockdowns may still be needed. But how long can the premiers stick a common policy based on lockdowns and scare tactics? In Daniel Andrews’ case, probably indefinitely, as he has at his personal disposal a politicised police force more devoted to suppressing his critics and enforcing his edicts than retaining the respect of the citizenry. So is it to be six months? A year? Eighteen months? Longer? I wouldn’t dare to guess, as a premier who can preside without blushing over the Red Shirts scandal, the Lawyer X disgrace and the leaking against and framing of George Pell is so shameless as to be capable of anything.

The time is now when the personal and civil rights of citizens must be respected and protected and, if cursed by a leader, a suspect police force and a media whose natural posture is one of genuflection, well those liberties must be fought for or surrendered.  It’s disturbing that civil rights are being thrown under the COVID bus. For the good of the nation, this can’t be allowed to continue.

Alan Barron is one of 6 million-plus Victorians  being restrained, hectored and tormented by what is probably the worst and most corrupt state government since the long-ago days of Tommy Bent

13 comments
  • Peter Marriott

    Good piece Alan, we can only hope the Premiers and their CMO’s get to read it. With the rest of the world starting to get back to a new ‘New Normal’ which should look exactly like the old normal in my view, maybe our press will finally get around to giving them a bit of stick…I would suggest ridicule as a good starter. No one likes to think they’re being made to look a fool, even the thick skinned comrade Dan…surely ? One point on the vaccines, I don’t think anyone anywhere in the world has ever said they’re full protection, but they have said if one does get infected it can expect to be mild, unless of course one is infirmed, with immunity senescence and multiple morbidities etc. There is some protection against infection I think, and of course we’ll never really know what that is….as we don’t know which vaccinated never caught anything…. to prove it. The ordinary flu vaccine is only about 60 odd percent protection I think, but once again if one does contract it, it should in most cases be mild.

  • Stephen Due

    Video of the recent protest in Melbourne (filmed by Avi Yemini, Rebel News and on YouTube) looks exactly like the communist suppression of protests in Hong Kong (2019-2020): police in armour, water cannon, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets.
    Daniel Andrews and his CHO are evidently of the opinion that this is all about the exercise of power. But they are stuck with vaccines that do not work, and they have no other plan to get themselves out of the mess they have created.
    There are about seven million people in Victoria. They need to tell the thugs in charge that their services are no longer required, and the sooner they do so the better, because every day breeds more despair, more non-Covid illness, more economic destruction.

  • Daffy

    Politicians unable to balance policy! Rather, its more fun, and better headlines play the monotone of Corona Virus or bust! The article mentioned the critical issue only once and in passing. The mental health of individuals, the robustness and vigour of society at large, its resilience over time, all are evaporating as this mad pursuit of the impossible quest continues.
    Driven, I think by a craven fear of death. I’m sure it’ll go to the road toll next. We’ll all have to stay at home until there are no more road accidents. Then alcohol will be banned until there are no more cases of liver disease and alcohol induced cancer. After that we’ll move on to fatal infections from bird strikes in spring. All inside during spring, or the water cannons will be turned on you!
    Welcome to the land of the 8 year old decision mode.

  • Biggles

    I smell a rat with the decision to inoculate young teenagers. A larger population sample will require a greater number of those inoculated to reach the magic 70 or 80 percent: cue longer lockdowns.
    It terrifies me to think that my 13 yo granddaughter will receive the Pfizer shot, not only because there are unknown long-term side effects, but of the immediate possibility of pericardia, as reported recently by Quadrant Online.
    Go to http://www.cmnnews.org for real reportage on Covid by highly-qualified medical professionals. Please at least see https://www.brighteon.com/2cb95f1a-0e44-41ce-9cc6-d59e5d5c8fbd. We have been lied to, in spades!

  • DougD

    “Welcome to the land of the 8 year old decision mode.” Well, we’re told to pay attention to what the school-striking kiddies tell us we must do to stop climate change (or is it to stop global warming ?) so why not follow this 8 year old decision mode on the virus.

  • Rebekah Meredith

    The web-site for Reignite Democracy Australia (the group started by Monica Smit, the woman in the Youtube video) states that her bail conditions would involve “an immediate dismantling of Reignite Democracy Australia,” as well as a requirement to apply by all these “health” directions. She has refused, and will (according to the web-site) be in jail 4-6 weeks.
    I don’t know a lot about Monica Smit; I might or might not agree with everything she has done. But she is working for what most of us on this site believe in. She talks about the normal people, rather than soldiers, being the heroes in this fight. If the true history of this all is ever written, surely the name of Monica Smit will be remembered.
    She is now, as her parents (who, by the way, cannot visit her) say, a political prisoner. Her imprisonment is no shame to HER; it is an honour. But shame on the Australian people for allowing this country to reach this point!
    And is there shame attached to us? Should we have done more for right, our country, and freedom?

  • Peter OBrien

    Brilliant and comprehensive article Alan. In my view Ivermectin Denial is probably the most scandalous aspect of this panicdemic. I hope heads will roll. No, just joking, I’m not that naive.

  • pgang

    Rebekah to attempt to answer your question, I think that in a general sense yes, we carry the shame our leaders impart on us given that they represent us. There is also the shame of association with the many who willingly comply with government diktats and happily watch their fellow countrymen suffer, and who will even inform against them. If there was ever any confusion about what happened to Germany in the 1930’s, there certainly isn’t now.
    In general I feel ashamed as an Australian, as an Anglophile, and in a broader sense I have a heightened sense of shame in our fallen humanity. Perhaps these are good things for humility and for throwing off misplaced trust in false idols.
    As to what we could have done, I do what little I can although it amounts to practically nothing. It is those with corporate responsibility who could have done a lot more, but haven’t. This isn’t surprising, given that the corporate mentality requires the self-discipline required to toe-the-line. (Perhaps there is something of a penchant for self-delusion also necessary).
    But I still think we could have expected a lot more from business and church leaders who have been effectively missing in action at a time when their corporations and fellow travellers in small businesses are under an existential threat. I’m also disappointed in school leaders – particularly those of private schools – who have done exactly nothing to stand up for the students whom they proclaim to care so much about.

  • Ian MacKenzie

    The litany of failures overseen by the Andrews government is grotesquely impressive. I followed the link to Tommy Bent, Victorian Premier 1904 to 1909, but concluded that the Andrews government is corrupt on a much wider front than Bent achieved. After being in power for almost all of the 21st century so far, the ALP has politicised the entire Victorian civil service to the point whereby the Justice system, for instance, understands the minutest principles of identity politics but not innocent beyond a reasonable doubt. The end result is exemplified by the hotel quarantine fiasco whereby the contractors involved were given training in diversity but not quarantine procedures – competency ditched in favour of woke preaching, resulting in hundreds of deaths.
    This situation has been allowed to develop due to a useless Opposition which is so wet it’s drenched. Thus, even if Andrews is turfed out at the next election, as he should have been years ago, all Victorians could look forward to are three years of respite, before the ALP inevitably returns to continue it’s mission to create East Berlin on the Yarra.
    This is not to say that the NSW government isn’t stacked with a bunch of left-wing LINOs, but at least Gladys has demonstrated some competence. Andrew’s recent sneers about NSW have now come back to haunt him, as reality has forced him away from dogma onto the same path that Gladys decided on a month ago. Typically he sloped away and wouldn’t face the media.
    It’s said that a crisis reveals the true character of those caught up in it. If so, then we’ve seen the true character of Dictator Dan and his ALP Premier mates very clearly indeed.

  • Stephen

    I live in Melbourne and am currently locked down under the 5K rule. The two postcodes I can walk in for exercise and shopping do not have a single case at the moment and also have no current hotspots. In Victoria at the moment (see https://covidlive.com.au/ )we have some 841 cases. Now the real number is liable to be a great deal higher than that because this number is for people presenting for testing. So those who have very mild symptoms or are asymptomatic are not included in the count. Now out of all of these people who currently have this disease about 54 are in hospital, about 6.5%. Of these about 15 are on a respirator, about 1.8%. I don’t have an exact figure but I think so far Victoria has had two deaths in this lockdown period. If Victoria has over 500 ICU beds how does the 54 cases amount to the health system being under pressure. Remember also that seasonal Flu is low as well.
    To put this in some perspective, Australian had over 4,000 deaths in 2019 from seasonal flu. Actual deaths, not “cases” or “hospitalisations”.
    The above article raises the issue of Ivermectin use in India. The graph certainly shows a pretty strong correlation. This sort of Ivermectin correlation is also seen in Africa according to another recent Quadrant story. There is also evidence for Cortiso steroids also being effective in reducing disease severity and lowering the death rate. Whilst it may be true that the gold standard, double blind trials haven’t yet been done (why not?) but surely why not try these drugs with patients if patients are about to die any way.
    I’m 70 with a heart condition comorbidity. I’ve had both AZ vaccinations. I’m prepared to continue with some sensible precautions to protect myself including booster shots and indoor masks.
    Now I’m not a medical expert but it seems to me that Covid is already something that we will just have to live with. It doesn’t actually seam to be very dangerous to fit, healthy people. Even less so to the vaccinated.
    From now on we should stop bothering to publish case counts because they can never be accurate and aren’t really relevant.
    Hospitalisations and deaths are the things worth counting. These numbers are low and, the vulnerable, like me, know who we are.
    It’s time for the lockdowns to cease.

  • Daffy

    Temporary/emergency hospitals?
    I would have thought that a standard part of our state disaster plan would be the provision of temporary emergency hospitals.
    Given the ‘rabbit in the headlights’ panic that premiers are showing – and maybe only for media frisson – maybe their officials haven’t thought of that.
    So, I conclude that we do not have a state displan worth the paper it decorates. This was evident in the 2019 bushfires and the follow up amateurish treatment of affected communities. And now today? What, no plan for a temporary hospital. No plan to take over the old or the new Sydney show ground, the ICC, the Australia Technology Park venue, and there must be other places? Surely we have a civil service that does its job. But all we see is political panic and a knee-jerk response. Time to grow up and get serious, I would think.

  • Rebekah Meredith

    I should have written, in my comment last night, that the main thing Monica Smit’s parents are asking people to do is PRAY. This isn’t a matter of using “I’ll pray about it” as an excuse to put forth no personal effort; this family HAS been working for freedom. But what the Smits say is most needed for their daughter is prayer.
    It comes back to that apparent paradox: we should do all we can, while knowing that God must be the one to bring about results.

  • lbloveday

    “… due to a useless Opposition which is so wet it’s drenched”
    .
    I can understand that; what I can’t understand is why “we” expect any better – I’d not be a politician for the proverbial $1 million in this age of rabid mobs poring over everything you say or do, even have said or done decades ago, looking for the slightest “sin”, real, imagined or concocted.

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