Waiting … and Waiting … for the ‘Second Wave’

A recent  editorial in The Australian notes:

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy was looking ahead on Monday when he said opening schools and lifting limits on the size of gatherings would be among the first measures the Morrison government would look at relaxing when medical experts were satisfied community transmission of COVID-19 was under control.

What do medical experts mean by  ‘under control’?  Our federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, doesn’t seem to know, judging by his responses to questions by Andrew Bolt the other night. Bolt asked this specific question, viz, at what level of infection will it be safe to start to lift restrictions?  Hunt couldn’t, or wouldn’t, answer.  The best he could come up with is that we must prepare for a second wave of infections.  Bolt put the reasonable proposition to him that this ‘second wave’ may not materialize at all, but if it did we could re-impose restrictions, as we did in the first instance.

In today’s Australian, Mr Hunt said he “won’t make a false promise” that Australia is past the worst of COVID-19, “but we are in a position that I think overwhelmingly the rest of the world would want to be in”. On restrictions, he said “we went in quickly, we will step out gradually”. He continued

We’re not there at the step-out yet, but we’re planning that step-out … In the National Cabinet, the premiers and the Prime Minister are doing that today (Thursday), in the first major stage of that planning. 

But we have to be careful, we don’t want a second wave, we’ve seen that in other successful countries. So the more we’re able to stabilise now, the greater freedoms we’ll have later on.

That set me to thinking, what are these ‘successful counties’ that have seen a second wave? Well, generally regarded as successful are South Korea, Singapore, Japan and Taiwan.  Follow those links, scroll down to the ‘New Daily Cases’ graphs, where you will see that not one of them has experienced a second wave.   True, some have delayed the onset for longer than countries such as Italy and Spain, but all the graphs show an exponential increase in cases at some point along the horizontal axis, then a falling away. None show a sharp and significant uptick subsequent to the initial decline. The closest I could find to a ‘second wave’ in my, admittedly cursory, search, was Sweden:

Sweden seems to have witnessed less exponential growth in the rate of infections than other countries, peaking at 621 cases on April 2.  They then had a sharp drop to 312 cases on April 4, followed by another sharp rise to 726 cases by April 8.  This was followed by another sharp fall, to 332 cases ,on April 12 — and then back up to 497  two days later.  From all this we can infer that Sweden has never had the virus under control and has therefore not experienced a second wave. Add to this research by Professor Yitzhak Ben Israel, of Tel Aviv University, who

plotted the rates of new coronavirus infections of the U.S., U.K., Sweden, Italy, Israel, Switzerland, France, Germany, and Spain.

The numbers told a shocking story: irrespective of whether the country quarantined like Israel, or went about business as usual like Sweden, coronavirus peaked and subsided in the exact same way.

In the exact, same, way.

His graphs show that all countries experienced seemingly identical coronavirus infection patterns, with the number of infected peaking in the sixth week and rapidly subsiding by the eighth week.

Professor Ben Israel believes the virus has a 70-day “epidemic effect” regardless of measures taken. I make no judgement either way on this observation, which is based purely on real world data available right now.  It is not modelling and he makes no projections about what might happen.

But one thing I’m prepared to say is that the feared ‘second wave’ apparently driving our policy response has not appeared in any country that has ‘successfully’ managed the outbreak, Health Minister Hunt’s claims to the contrary notwithstanding. 

Peter O’Brien’s vivisection of Bruce Pascoe’s fanciful re-writing of Aboriginal history, Bitter Harvest, can be ordered here

19 thoughts on “Waiting … and Waiting … for the ‘Second Wave’

  • pgang says:

    Second wave? I thought we were still waiting for the first wave.

  • en passant says:

    We have already had the first devastating wave.
    It killed 68 people, closed 80% of businesses (many of which will never reopen) and consigned 25M people to the Oz Gulag.
    The second wave will the hundreds of suicides from people whose life’s work has been destroyed. Fortunately, no politicians will suffer as their pensions and benefits are secure …

  • Michael Fry says:

    The “second wave” hoodoo was also put out in an email by Dave Sharma last week. When I challenged him on it he made the claim about Singapore, Japan etc. When I responded that there was no evidence to support that, he went all quiet. It seems to be a government talking point.

    We have indeed entered a new wave, of outright bs being used to subdue the populace.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    CMO reported as saying:

    ‘Australia’s effective reproduction rate at the moment is about two and half, and that it needs to drop below one’

    Surely if our R0 were 2.5 we would still be seeing exponential growth in the number of cases.? Or am I missing something?

  • Peter Smith says:

    Some recent research coming out of the US suggests that the fatality rate for Covid-19 might be around 0.1 percent – the same as the seasonal flu. I am covering this in a new piece of mine. Note also that the fatality rate for the virulent flu in 1957-58 is put at 0.27 percent for the US. And I don’t think it closed down.
    Now, if there were to be a second wave here then it would have to be a lot bigger than the first to justify anywhere near the carnage the government is deliberately, with vacuous aforethought, inflicting on the nation.

  • Stephen Due says:

    The great beauty of the current shut-down from the political angle is that when the virus goes into decline the government and the health ministers can claim they saved us. Of course viruses do go into decline anyway. Since this one is ‘new’ nobody really knows what it will do. It may just be dying of boredom caused by being subjected to so many political speeches. SARS went into decline so completely that it vanished altogether – a mystery to modern science. But in this case ‘we’ have defeated it. Of course there is the small matter of the cost. Cue Moriarty of the Goon Show.

  • Stephen Due says:

    Incidentally I see, courtesy of the indestructible (unfortunately) ABC, that the CMO now says we are “leading the world” in coronavirus case detection. I wouldn’t mind a dollar (as my mother used to say) for (in this case) every time some tin-pot Australian official has announced that “we” are “leading the world”. It’s pathetic. Particularly in this situation. It might be more to the point to say “we” are “leading the world” in economic suicide and social destruction. Of course economic suicide is not an ’emergency’. This is just business (if you’ll excuse the word) as usual.

  • lloveday says:

    There are close to 100 Liberal MPs / Senators, of who I make it only 10,
    Kevin Andrews
    who are eligible for a Parliamentary Pension, no matter how long or short their parliamentary career may be. They are eligible for disability and age pensions on the same conditions as other Australians and the taxpayer contribution to their lump-sum super is the 15.4% generally paid to Federal Public Servants and slightly less than that paid to ADF members .
    Likely politicians from other parties and the states eligible for pensions are in similar very small minorities but I’m not going to do the counting.

  • Michael Fry says:

    Peter O’Brien
    I suspect the R0=2.5 is based on a ‘model’ of currently undetected cases.
    You cannot win against a model. Facts and common sense don’t matter.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    Michael Fry,
    you may be right but undetected cases can only, or at the very least overwhelmingly, be asymptomatic cases. But, if R0 is 2.5 such cases must spawn a large number of symptomatic cases. But we are not seeing them.

  • Michael Fry says:

    I agree Peter. We are not seeing anything like the ‘model’ says.. I think this model (actually, a hypothesis) is crap.
    We are being fed bullshit by the Chief Medical Officer. But everyone is protecting their backsides. It’s called the ‘precautionary principle’.

  • Michael Fry says:

    A key epidemiologist in the UK right now on Sky News saying that R0 is less than one. Nobody arguing. They are suffering much more. Why are we putting up with this?

  • Michael Fry says:

    That’s on the Science Selection Committee in the UK.

  • Michael Fry says:

    Select Committee, sorry.

  • ianl says:

    The first half of this contains some credible information, if one ignores the persistent hero poses of the compiling journo, pauses the film long enough to read and date the text excerpts thrown up onscreen and discounts the unacknowledged CGI images of scary viral pictures that constantly drift across the field of vision.
    The second half I did not find of much value.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    Peta Credlin tonight repeated the furphy about Singapore experiencing a second wave. This mindless acceptance of government spin infuriates me.

  • Peter Sandery says:

    Yes Po’B, I too picked that up last night and was more than somewhat surprised

  • Stephen Due says:

    It is heartening this morning to read of popular protests in America, encouraged by Trump, against draconian lock-downs in Minnesota, Michigan, Virginia and other states. The pictures show many people with American flags, out defying the authorities. It’s a great sight. Love of Liberty! Love of nation! What a pity Australians are so supine.

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