How Queensland surrendered its people to Covid
15 January 2022
NOOSA – This week Queensland recorded its deadliest two days of the Covid pandemic so far
Nine deaths and 38,500 new cases of the virus. Nearly 600 diseased people, 40 of them in intensive care, straining the hospital system to its limit.
Chief health officer Dr John Gerrard says all the dead had “significant underlying medical conditions”. It sounded like an excuse. I’ll come back to that in a moment.
Queensland is entering the eighth year of Annastacia Palaszczuk’s premiership, I cannot write 'leadership', with Covid tearing mercilessly through the State.
For nearly two years its citizens celebrated the government’s effective management of the pandemic. This included presenting Palaszczuk with a comfortable election victory in 2020.
The chief health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, justifiably won high praise for keeping Covid under control while the State economy remained active if subdued.
Then Young resigned to become Governor of Queensland in November. Since then, everything has fallen apart.
Upon getting the job (he was Palaszczuk’s second choice), Young's successor Dr John Gerrard wanted to implement his own ideas.
These seemed to consist mainly of adopting Scott Morrison’s policy of ‘push through and let Covid rip’. He did this just in time to catch the Omicron bus.
I note here that Gerrard is the only chief health officer in Australia who is able to overrule the Premier in being able to unilaterally impose public health restrictions.
But I don't let Palaszczuk off the hook, because Gerrard did not appoint himself and presumably the change in policy met with her approval.
“Not only is the spread of this virus inevitable, it is necessary,” Gerrard stated early in his stewardship and frequently since. “In order for us to go from the pandemic phase to an endemic phase, the virus has to be widespread.”
Experts say that SARS-Cov-2 viruses never become endemic, but it is the first part of the statement that is alarming.
Gerrard’s astonishing pronouncements of inevitability and necessity were seen to signal an abrogation of his responsibilities as a medical professional.
The change in policy soon came and was an unheralded, unplanned and unprepared 180 degree about face. It was also a disaster.
And now, we watch the virus running out of control in Queensland and the Sunshine State descending into a diabolical mess.
Gerrard himself has become a regular daily presence across the media, and seems to enjoy his role as unofficial doomsayer.
He rarely offers words on how he is seeking to manage the outbreak, and even fewer (to the point of no words at all) about his strategy to protect vulnerable members of the community.
His two major claims - that “the virus has to be widespread” and that it is “inevitable” that every person will get the disease - turn upside down every precept of public and preventive medicine. They are words without hope.
They are an absurd acceptance that a dangerous disease should be allowed to spread. Furthermore, Gerrard constantly fails to address the issue of what is being done to protect vulnerable people from getting the disease.
Nothing demonstrates this failure more than the repeated refrain that many of the Covid dead had “underlying medical conditions”. After spending a working life in journalism I can identify spin and propaganda when I see them.
And these words seem purposely designed to deflect responsibility for poor public health decisions from the government that makes them to hang them on victims who had other medical conditions.
Gerrard may equally have said, “Those who died, well, they had a foot in the grave anyway.” This is cruel and deceptive rhetoric which hurts most the people closest to the deceased.
All six of Wednesday’s deaths were said by Gerrard to be of people with “significant underlying medical conditions.” Male venisti ad me, mors tua non mea culpa est. You came to me ill, your death’s not my fault.
Five of the six were double vaccinated and one was unvaccinated. It was not a good batting average for the vaccine but Gerrard has often said since his appointment that people have two choices with Covid: to be vaccinated or to get infected.
On Wednesday’s numbers his pronouncement was a profound error: you could be both vaccinated and be infected. But at the time of utterance, it offered him some cover, however threadbare, for ‘letting it rip’.
It had enabled him to claim in December, that “we now have a largely vaccinated population and now we have to move to the next stage. We have to open up. We cannot keep the borders closed.”
But was the population “largely vaccinated”? Even as Gerrard spoke, Omicron was spreading rapidly and no longer did two jabs guarantee good protection.
To be effectively fully vaccinated required two jabs and a booster. However the Queensland government did not change its definition.
None of the five supposedly fully vaccinated people who died on Wednesday had boosters. They probably died thinking they were fully vaccinated. And the chief medical officer sloughed off responsibility by saying they had “significant medical conditions”.
But it was the Covid that killed them and the lack of the booster shot that denied them a better chance.
Government statistics don’t reveal how many Queenslanders have had the third (booster) that gives you much better prospects against Omicron.
I’d guess it’s less than 20% of the population. So that’s the proportion of Queenslanders who are really fully vaccinated. In its online numbers today, the government claims the figure to be a misleading 88%.
In December, Gerrard had told Queenslanders they had two choices: get the jab or get the infection. That was simplistic but what he didn’t say was that the Queensland government had many more choices when it came to keeping people safe.
Opening the borders on the pretext that Queenslanders were now fully vaccinated was not only deceptive, it was not even sensible.
It mattered how the opening took place - throw the gates open and let the virus rip or slide them shut with care with an eye always on containing outbreaks where they occurred, as Queensland had done so successfully before.
But in Australia (except for the West) it was ‘let it rip’ time – or, to use Scott Morrison’s euphemism, ‘push through’ time.
It always mattered that Covid needed to be under some sort of control and it mattered that Omicron was a more slippery customer than previous variants.
Delta was more severe, but Omicron could spread at warp speed. And it also showed a propensity to be able to ‘escape’ the vaccine.
Yet a more difficult virus has now been allowed to run free. Throwing open the door to a potentially deadly disease couldn’t have been a more dangerous combination. That was a choice made by health bureaucrats and their political masters.
It was a choice made by politicians who boasted of high percentages of the population being fully vaccinated at the same time as Omicron was there to say, ‘no you’re not’.
Omicron would, as forecast by the better scientists (whose voice in Australia is mostly sidelined by that of poorer ones), rush through the country to engulf medical services, get well ahead of the availability of tests and overwhelm disease tracking capacity even as most political leaders urged Australians to get back to normal.
It was a situation built for the chaos, sickness and death Australia is now experiencing.
And these scourges were to particularly affect poorer Australians – and more vulnerable ones.
There are many millions of Australians who can be classified as vulnerable. For example, half a million people are immunocompromised.
Very many more live with other ailments: 8 million are obese; 6 million have high blood pressure; 2.7 million have asthma; 1.8 million live with diabetes; 1 million with cancer; 600,000 with coronary heart disease; 250,000 with kidney disease.
You can add to this list the constantly waning immunity of elderly people, those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons and the folks who develop no immunity after vaccination.
There’s a lot of overlap in all this but it leaves a heck of a lot of people able to be dismissed by a lazy pronouncement that their death was accompanied by “underlying medical conditions”.
Queensland has a population of 5.2 million people of whom about 150,000 have caught Covid so far. So there are still plenty of lives for the virus to play with.
And plenty of Queenslanders with “underlying medical conditions”. I have a few myself.
Depending on how they are defined, there may be two million or more people in Queensland with underlying medical conditions.
So when chief health officer Gerrard refers to people who have just died of Covid having ‘underlying medical conditions’, he knows that the deaths were caused by Covid, not some underlying health condition. So why mention it?
The words partly minimise the responsibility of authorities for a death. It’s spin that suggests the deaths were not really the outcome of the authorities failing in some aspects of their job.
The suggestion is “they would probably have died anyway, it wasn’t our fault.”
Of course, Gerrard’s ‘underlying medical conditions’ is a term used by many politicians and health bureaucrats in Australia who have the task of announcing each day’s Covid casualties.
They are words that seek to pass responsibility to the dead. They are words that malign the vulnerable in an attempt to exonerate the culpable. They are unethical, abusive and harmful words.
They are part of the barrage of rhetoric that is constantly trying to push responsibility away from the people whose job it is to keep the community safe.
“That's what a pandemic is about, a very large number of cases,” Gerrard says matter of factly. “The number of people we expect to get infected with the virus is very large. We are not going to stop the Omicron virus.”
This, like many of the statements he makes with a strange look of satisfaction, leaves many people feeling hopeless.
They are attempts to diminish the culpability and accountability of politicians and their health bureaucrats for the management of the disease.
“We are not going to stop the Omicron virus,” Gerrard says, adding, “not only is the spread of this virus inevitable, it is necessary. The virus has to be widespread.”
And then pontificating about how people feel, “It is the anxiety of the unknown, and once you realise that, well, it’s just another virus....”
Really? Just another virus? What does that even mean?
Covid is ‘just another virus’ that leaves somewhere between 10% and 40% of those who catch it with symptoms that can persist for many months or more. It’s known as Long Covid.
Long Covid has lots of symptoms that can take you down, none worse than leaving you with damaged lungs, heart and brain as well as the risk of long-term health problems. It is similar in many respects to the neurological disease, myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).
The risk of Long Covid is alone a compelling reason why the virus needs to be resisted every inch of the way. If you didn’t have a significant underlying medical condition before catching the disease, there’s a 10-40% chance that Long Covid will give you one or two afterwards. Perhaps you’ll have them for life.
The truth about Covid in Australia today is that most people are not fully vaccinated as they confront a virus running free. In Queensland this is the result of a decision to let it in and not fight it strenuously.
It is killing many people and putting hundreds into hospital. It has made about two million Queenslanders medically vulnerable.
It triggers Long Covid where the virus leaves in its wake an array of serious chronic conditions.
And conjured up by incompetent politicians and bureaucrats, added to these problems is the scarcity and inept distribution of vaccines, test kits and safe masks.
Given all this, we don’t need Dr Gerrard and others like him to act as some sort of self-styled commentator on the passing parade of a serious disease.
Every day we need to know what is being done to address the serious issues raised in this analysis.
What is Gerrard and his political and bureaucratic colleagues doing to keep the people of Queensland and Australia safe?
That is the job they are charged to do and it is the job they are so obviously failing to do.
Too late, too little, too lean, too listless; leadership-lacking too.
Health professional guidance deserves prompter priming of principles.
For the record, I reflected on this item overnight and observed PM Morrison in his news announcements this morning (exhibits more energy when in the flesh.)
Yet still I am drawn to the idea that a PM issuing a reprimand does it with such delay that it has no more consequence than a retort.
Maybe the scriptwriter was cause of delay, with electioneering so pressing.
For Christensen, his right to express opinion is not diminished by retort nor reprimand. So his '
rights are not infringed. What ought be looked at is whether Christensen has any intellectual engagement with the presentation of sundry informative sources, so as to build comprehension in the populace. "
Dangerous is not only the strategy of not assisting antibodies in each human, but also dangerous is the hearing among mobs.
For the record, people in need of clear guidance, check out AusGov webpages such as:
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 19 January 2022 at 10:32 AM
Good on yer Keith; keep on belting those sixes.
Posted by: William Dunlop | 18 January 2022 at 10:18 AM
A vaccine for stupidity is eugenics, the rattling skeleton in the closet of Fabian socialists:
"The only way of cutting off the constant stream of idiots and imbeciles and feeble-minded persons who help to fill our prisons and workhouses, reformatories, and asylums is to prevent those who are known to be mentally defective from producing offspring.
"Undoubtedly the best way of doing this is to place these defectives under control. Even if this were a hardship to the individual it would be necessary for the sake of protecting the race." - The Spectator UK), 25 May 1912.
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 18 January 2022 at 08:06 AM
Scomo and Domicron have also been manipulating scientific literature for a while now.
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 17 January 2022 at 02:14 PM
Dear Keith - Here is another interesting link which exposes many of the clandestine corporate tactics regarding exposure to asbestos:
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 17 January 2022 at 11:11 AM
Dear Arthur - Metropolitan Life Insurance and several asbestos mining and product manufacturing companies exerted considerable corporate influence to manipule scientific literature regarding the causal nexus between asbestosis, mesothelioma and exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos product companies would like the public to believe that there was a legitimate debate surrounding the dangers of asbestos during the twentieth century, particularly regarding the link to cancer, which delayed adequate regulation.
The asbestos–cancer link was not a legitimate contestation of science; rather the companies directly manipulated the scientific literature.
There is evidence that industry manipulation of scientific literature remains a continuing problem today, resulting in inadequate regulation and compensation and perpetuating otherwise preventable worker and consumer injuries and deaths:
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 17 January 2022 at 10:48 AM
Quick quip. Renowned Sydney Doctor and Lebanese community leader GP Jamal Rifi opined last year that "it's a pity that there isn't a vaccine for stupidity".
Posted by: Peter Salmon | 17 January 2022 at 08:12 AM
Yes, just read about your revelation which was a sombre read (and thanks for correct spelling of Johns not John - that's a first such Christian name for me).
I note that the Johns Hopkins immediately suspended its coal dust lung review service as soon as the (US) ABC News report was published.
I cannot find any update on their subsequent internal inquiry perhaps because of the 2016 class action by two named miners which could benefit over 1,500 other apparently wrongly diagnosed miners, especially whose cases were reviewed by a Hopkins 'expert'.
And it is not 'only in America' as my dad had a hard job getting a disability widow's pension for my old grandmother when my granddad died from the disease known in most mining areas as 'The Dust'.
It was a horrible industry in the UK with over 160000 deaths for all sorts of reasons in the last two centuries.
However I don't think you are suggesting that the Covid death figures are being faked!
In Australia not so much faked as, in many cases, manipulated to make them appear less threatening. And just this morning the Business Council of Australia called for them not to be released publicly. According to reputable scientists Australia's figures are underestimated by a factor of around five. Of course, as everywhere, many are not properly collected in the first place - KJ
Posted by: Arthur Williams | 17 January 2022 at 05:35 AM
Report from India tells "the notion of 'herd immunity', ... has disappeared from public discourse."
As to "anti-vaccination sentiment", a matter likely being 'judged' today at an Australian Federal Court, the matter deflects from attention on "antibodies among the population".
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 16 January 2022 at 12:18 PM
Dear Arthur, During the resurgence of black lung disease throughout Appalachia, Johns Hopkins engaged in a pattern and practice with the intent to defraud at least hundreds of toxically injured coal miners of federally earned benefits:
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 16 January 2022 at 08:51 AM
On 12 January Jim Stanford's article, 'Supply issues show healthy humans are key to our economy', appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald. It was based on an edited version of his article on The Conversation website, 'Healthy humans drive the economy: we’re now witnessing one of the worst public policy failures in Australia’s history'.
A good read, reasonably brief and germaine to this conversation.
Recently I returned from a farm project located on a large property situated between Thallon and Mungindi along the Dirribandi road. In the sticks of Queensland.
You would think that you couldn't get a more isolated area from Covid, yet the property owner and his wife attended a New Year's function and both became infected. Just goes to show.
Posted by: Peter Salmon | 16 January 2022 at 08:37 AM
John Hopkins Jan 2020 to Jan 2022 stats shows Australia has one of lowest rates in world:
Deaths Death Rate Cases
Australia 2,389............ 9.4................1,049,306
AND WORST FOUR
Bosnia & HZ13,568...........411.0.................297,333
In terms of the death rate, at 101 per million Australia is 57th globally. The cases have escalated from 1.05 million to 1.64 million, currently each day is a record for cases, hospitalisations, ICU occupancy and deaths - and the peak of the outbreak is still 2-4 weeks away, depending on which expert is doing the guesswork - KJ
Posted by: Arthur Williams | 15 January 2022 at 11:49 PM
The other inevitability is that Morticia, Pugsley, Wednesday and Uncle Fester will receive an order of chivalry for their egregious performances.
Meanwhile, never trust a Tory especially if they are from the Three-Toed Bullingdon Club:
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 15 January 2022 at 10:36 PM
There's another aspect, Chris. The irony this time is not the rats that spread the Black Death but dearth of available RATs (rapid antigen tests) to show whether we are infectious or not.
Who knows where you can find a RAT, buy, purloin, 'mumut' or otherwise acquire one when everyone needs one to prove that they aren't infectious?
No doubt there are millions of RATs being stockpiled by the manufacturer, on the way in a shipping container somewhere but can't be unloaded, transported or distributed or sold due to the necessary staff at each choke point being isolated or infectious.
Have we all just been 'ratted on'? Why is it no one seems to know how to manage in a emergency?
Posted by: Paul Oates | 15 January 2022 at 06:53 PM
I have a great deal of sympathy for what Keith is saying in this piece.
I think that it axiomatic that a conscious decision to expose the population to Omicron necessarily means exposing the vulnerable and immuno-compromised to an elevated risk of sickness and death.
The apparent rational is that exposure to the disease is inevitable anyway, that it will become endemic, rather like seasonal influenza, and that this is a necessary prerequisite to 'learning to live with Covid'.
The actual reasons for taking such a decision also will include what the decision makers regard as an economic imperative to 'open up' the economy and 'get on with our lives'.
They have been under huge pressure from the wider business community to stop restricting trade and this pressure has become irresistible, especially to conservative politicians like our Prime Minister and the Premier of NSW.
Inconveniently, the decision to open up appears to have been the trigger for a voluntary 'lock down' by a justifiably nervous public who are not anxious to contract a disease that may kill them or, much more likely, leave them incapacitated by Long Covid, a condition the origins, long term effects and treatment of which remain a medical mystery.
Morrison and Perrottet have managed to score one of the more spectacular economic 'own goals' in living memory.
Like Keith, I think that the idea that Covid will become endemic like the 'flu is not currently supported by the facts as we know them.
As long as the conditions are congenial for the virus it seems more likely that it will simply wax and wane through a succession of surges until we find a truly effective and long lasting vaccine and a universally successful treatment for it.
Both of these outcomes seem improbable at the moment.
A plausible alternative is that, rather like the Black Death (1346-1353), the disease will rage on until it kills everyone who is susceptible to it, after which it will die away to become the rare and easily treated disease it is today.
The Black Death killed at least one-third of the population of Europe and Asia before it subsided. Those who survived the experience were either incredibly lucky or had a genetic resistance to it that meant they either did not get it or were able to recover.
The socio-economic impact of the Black Death was profound. Amongst other things, it largely destroyed the basis of the medieval feudal system and altered forever the relationships between the ruling elite and those they ruled, notably the emergent merchant class.
It is arguable that an incidental effect of the Black Death was to lay the foundations for the system we now call capitalism.
Of course, the ability of human societies to respond to such threats has hugely increased since then but there is no reason to suppose that such events cannot happen again.
All a virus like Covid-19 requires is a congenial environment and time to work its way through a given population. Right now, it has both.
All our efforts to date have merely slowed its progress. Nothing has happened that has stopped it entirely nor does such a development even seem likely.
Even if the current surge in Australia should subside there is no reason to suppose that another will not occur, especially if the virus successfully mutates once more into an even more infectious or lethal form.
Indeed, the experience in Europe and the UK suggests that a second and subsequent surges are inevitable unless an extremely effective and persistent vaccine can be found.
The truth is that those who lead us have no idea what the end game may be for this pandemic. Their hope is that it will subside and things will return to normal, whatever that may be.
However, if it does not really subside at all and living with Covid turns out to be living with a disease that causes many deaths and a great deal of chronic illness, then the 'rules of the game' as we have understood them will be permanently altered.
It will no longer be possible for the neo-liberal juggernaut to simply thunder on unhindered by tightly controlled borders and the constant necessity to at least retard the spread of infection by restricting our behaviours in many ways.
This is a horror scenario for the neo-liberal elites who now dominate our world. Economic growth will be, at best, very anaemic, hindered by a lack of workers, sclerotic transport distribution systems and, so it seems, the risk of severe and persistent inflation once the large scale creation of money finally comes to an end.
Of course, I could be completely wrong. We may burst forth into the sunlit uplands of a Covid free world at any moment, thus vindicating the judgement of PM Scott 'Just Push Through' Morrison and his fellow travellers.
Maybe we should all hope that he is right but if his past track record is any guide, we are destined to be sadly disillusioned.
Posted by: Chris Overland | 15 January 2022 at 04:14 PM
A new Covid-19 line-up two hours ago in the Northern Territory.
Acting Health Minister Nicole Mansion (the iron lady), Acting CHO Dr Charles Pain, Acting Territory Controller, Commander Michael Murphy, as transcribed from Channel 9.
I had a few presents dropped off an hour ago for my 79th on Monday. Just got an SMS from Melinda that Casuarina Square is now a declared area; that's where my presents came from.
Now we have to ride it out.
The NT government opened the floodgates not many days ago.
It's already rampant.
Posted by: William Dunlop | 15 January 2022 at 03:57 PM
Writing in The Saturday Paper (15-21 January 2022), Professor Raina MacIntyre from the Kirby Institute points out that Covid-19 is an epidemic disease and will never become endemic as herd immunity enthusiasts like Gerrard maintain.
Epidemic infections are spread from person to person mainly through airborne transmission and "display a waxing and waning pattern such as we have already seen with multiple waves of SARS-CoV-2.
"Cases rise rapidly over days or weeks, as we have seen with Alpha, Delta and Omicron. No truly endemic disease - malaria for example - does this."
MacIntyre also says: "As an epidemic disease, SARS-CoV-2 will always find the unvaccinated, undervaccinated or people with waning immunity and spread rapidly in these groups."
When Omicron has done with us there will be another variant, maybe deadlier and even more infectious. We should be planning for this but we aren't.
The most eminent scientists agree that Covid will not become endemic. It will revisit humans in successive epidemics. That Dr Gerrard and other medical advisers to government are ignorant of this important aspect of the disease is yet another element that detracts from their capabilities as public health strategists, planners and decision-makers - KJ
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 15 January 2022 at 12:39 PM
Here's another diversion that is being foisted on the Australian public. 'Novax Documents'.
The law was clear and applied to everyone except those who thought it surely wouldn't apply to THEM!
Worried about how much the tennis match might lose in income and interest. Draw the matter out before you make a decision. If the law applies to everyone, and some actually understood that aspect, why didn't it make it through the 'translation'? Give the media a chance to make several bucks before the obvious is announced.
Clearly it was a case of 'money talks'. It says 'Goodbye'.
Posted by: Paul Oates | 15 January 2022 at 11:59 AM
Thanks, Keith; hook line N sinker.
Posted by: William Dunlop | 15 January 2022 at 11:48 AM
If folk all stand on a road, some folk will survive the impact of vehicles. Yet why is standing on a road to be termed as "necessary".
Inevitable the prospect may appear and even be significant in modelling. but standing on a road differs from an acceptance of being horizontal on a road.
Got virus? RIP? Oh, Gerrard, whatever will be.
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 15 January 2022 at 10:12 AM
It not as if we didn't know what would happen when the virus took hold in the population. We have had many examples during recorded history of pandemics and know how they spread and what damage they cause.
We have our written history to learn from. We also have novels and a number of excellent films over the last decades about what we were going to face.
Clearly the only entity who learnt from all these historical examples was the virus itself. Yet as the virus has no actual brain, it's obviously a 'no brain errrr'.
Clearly none of the so-called world leaders or those who tried to kid us about something they actually understood very little about, never researched or read about what has happened before. They didn't believe the story line in the films. That was just Hollywood.
Then there's the real issue. 'Social media'. The inventors of this equivalent of the 'over the backyard fence' rumours and nonsense accept no responsibility for the dissemination of emotive rumours and misinformation.
Even if these people are tried and held accountable and taxable, they just change the name of the product. See, it doesn't really exist at all, therefore I'm not to blame.
The media are just as much to blame as those who claim to be in charge. Sell more product and make more money by generating panic and fear? No problem. No one will hold us accountable since we control those who claim to be in control.
The so called World Health Organisation is a mere hand puppet for those who really are in control. Much the same could be said about many politicians.
If ever there is a classic example of the frailties the human race this is it. Evolution has stalled.
So where do we go for something to take our mind off the problem? Yep! Let's start a diversion. Let's talk about being a republic. Yep! Surely that will fix everything?
Posted by: Paul Oates | 15 January 2022 at 09:19 AM
Alas Keith, we in the Northern Territory seem to be following in Queensland footsteps healthwise. At a recent press conference, the health minister, the Grand Madam Fyles, told the chief health officer to shut up. Wow are we, eh.
Given it was the great NT, Dr Heggie oughtta be grateful the Hon Natasha Fyles didn't flatten him on the spot - KJ
Posted by: William Dunlop | 15 January 2022 at 08:37 AM