| You can link to the OzSAGE website here
NOOSA – OzSAGE is an independent network of Australian health experts formed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘Independent’ in this context means that OzSAGE is beyond the grip of politicians, health bureaucrats and others who have demonstrated great incompetence in managing the pandemic and also repeatedly failed to tell the Australian people the full truth about Covid and its effects.
The group came together last August to provide its knowledgeable, authoritative, well-researched and robustly-debated advice.
On the OzSAGE executive are Prof Nancy Baxter (a specialist in public health), Prof Margaret Hellard (infectious diseases), Dr Greg Kelly (intensive care), Prof Lisa Jackson-Pulver (indigenous health), Prof Raina MacIntyre (public health), Prof Guy Marks (respiratory medicine), Prof Lidia Morawska (ventilation & ‘safe air’) and Prof Richard Holden (economics).
Some other prominent members of the network are Prof Brian Schmidt AC (vice-chancellor, Australian National University & Nobel Prize winner), Prof Patricia Davidson (vice-chancellor, University of Wollongong & nursing expert), Prof Brendan Crabb AC (microbiologist), Prof Stephen Duckett (health economist), Prof Kerryn Phelps AM (medical practitioner), Prof Nick Talley AC (epidemiologist & editor, Medical Journal of Australia), Dr Zoe Hyde (epidemiologist & child Covid expert) and Prof Russell Gruen (emergency medicine specialist).
The overall assessment of Australia’s response to the pandemic by OzSAGE experts is that it is unimpressive and that the response to Omicron in particular is quite dangerous.
OzSAGE has identified a great number of significant failings that Australian authorities have not responded to effectively.
These include the lack of planning that led to enormous difficulties in securing and distributing vaccines, establishing adequate quarantine facilities and communicating fully, promptly and truthfully to the community.
OzSAGE is especially critical of the ‘let it rip’ strategy that has seen the virus explode in Australia.
It says the defeatist narrative that “we are all going to get it” ignores the reality of vulnerable people who, if they ‘get it’ are more likely to become seriously ill and die.
People with serious health conditions are at increased risk if Omicron strikes. This is a large number of Australians - half the adult population.
This means that 12.5 million Australians bear a greater risk of having a bad experience with Covid.
By early January, the capacity of the Australian health system was eroded by greater numbers of people seeking treatment and staff resignations and illness.
Waiting lists had blown out and elective surgery (everything apart from emergency admission) was on the chopping block.
The community was told it should no longer expect access to hospital care, and in NSW people under 65 were advised to care for themselves at home.
OzSAGE undertook a tracking study of deaths at home in NSW during the Delta wave and found a disturbingly high number of deaths from Covid in relatively young people.
People hospitalised with Covid are no longer counted in hospital statistics once they have cleared the virus, even if they still require a high level of care.
OzSAGE also found that the authorities’ rhetoric that ‘case numbers do not matter’ is incorrect.
Daily case numbers are soaring in Australia – they are 100 times higher than Delta – and this translates to a high burden that the OzSAGE experts believe is likely to overwhelm the health system.
The load of Covid-infected people has become so great that access to testing has been restricted or has substantially broken down.
“Optimistic assumptions about the impact of the Omicron variant on hospital admissions are unrealistic,” it says.
Meanwhile, most governments are nudging towards not releasing daily case statistics. This includes failing to institute systems for counting the number of sick people and changing the definitions it uses (e.g., now four hours minimum exposure instead of 15 minutes required to become a ‘close contact’, a definition not based on sound public health principles).
Abysmal planning by government has resulted in a severe national shortage of rapid antigen tests (RATs) even as authorities urge people to use them instead of the more labour-intensive PCR tests.
Other issues include the dubious reliability of the ability of some RAT brands to correctly detect Omicron, the lack of transparency when there have been mistakes in testing and messaging that fails to advise people to swab both nose and throat to make RAT testing accurate.
Another disastrous messaging issue, much repeated by people like the prime minister who should know better, is that only symptomatic people should get tested. It is known that in 40-45% of Covid cases, there are no symptoms even though people are infectious.
This advice against testing further increases the likelihood that cases that could otherwise have been stopped will escalate the spread of the disease.
The description of the Omicron variant as mild is also misleading. It may be less severe than Delta but it is at least as virulent as the original strain that came out of China in January 2020. Omicron is also far more likely to get around the vaccine and infect vaccinated people.
We know nothing yet of the incidence of Long Covid associated with Omicron. Long Covid refers to the persistence of symptoms, often very serious, after the Covid infection seems to have gone.
It has been estimated by legitimate experts of the calibre of Dr Anthony Fauci in the USA that between 10% and 30% of people who get symptomatic Covid go on to experience Long Covid.
It is expected that many of these people will carry with them serious consequences, including organ damage, for life.
As hospital systems become further stressed, and even break down, there will be an enormous surge in demand for the services of general practitioners.
Governments have not planned around this, let alone indicated they will fund or support GPs in any way.
Sadly, part of this burden will be a demand for GPs to provide palliative care for people dying at home or in aged care facilities.
In addition, with vaccinations for allowed for third dose boosters and children 5-11 years old, GPs also have to cope with the surge in demand these generate.
The lack of urgency in delivering boosters is accelerating the spread of both Delta and Omicron.
OzSAGE has expressed deeply concern that unvaccinated children are completely unprotected and that it will take months for many of them to acquire adequate resistance to Covid.
And finally, I was struck by a note from Dr Chris Moy, vice-president of the Australian Medical Association, who listed what you could expect severe Covid emergency symptoms to look and feel like, that is the “time to call an ambulance” symptoms.
These include breathlessness so bad you cannot to speak in sentences, drowsiness or fainting, blue or pale skin, Cold, clammy or mottled skin, pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, passing no or a lot less urine, and coughing up blood.
A grim list, although emergency doctor Dr David Berger adds: “By the time these are happening, it's too late”.