PNG writing: Stop reminiscing. Start again
A place of high threat & ineffective response

Pandemic: The truths they won’t tell you

Covid  Port Moresby  Papua New Guinea
Covid Ward, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

| 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.

Covid  Baghdad  Iraq
Covid Ward,  Baghdad,  Iraq

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.

Covid  Jerusalem  Israel
Covid Ward, Jerusalem, Israel

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.

Covid  Reno  Nevada
Covid Ward,  Reno,  Nevada

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.

You can link to the OzSAGE website here

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”.


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Harry Topham

Phil - Might be time to join your local Men's Shed. I have.

Very elucidating and much fun is to be had I find.

Bernard Corden

On 17 January 2020, when Covid-19 initially emerged in the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 29,348.10.

On 7 January 2022, it closed at 36,236.47.

Profits over people indeed

Bernard Corden

Dear Phil,

Back in the late 1970s the band 10cc released an album entitled Bloody Tourists and its opening track was Dreadlock Holiday:

Philip Fitzpatrick

The inevitable has happened and Covid-19 has arrived in sleepy little Tumby Bay courtesy of an inundation of tourists and holiday makers taking advantage of the opening up of state borders.

We are marking the days when they all leave so we can pick up the pieces and try to get back to some semblance of normality.

Right now a couple of great white sharks in the bay looking for a tasty tourist or two would be ideal.

As a small seaside town with a large population of retirees the permanent residents are being extra cautious. The elderly are staying home and their younger relatives, with a few stupid exceptions, are helping out where possible.

We know that physical and mental activities are essential ingredients for a good life but Covid-19 has thrown that formula awry.

Thankfully there are a few little coves and beaches that the tourists don’t know about where we can still enjoy a solitary walk with our dogs.

All of our other beaches have been churned up by idiots in four wheel drives and campers who leave rubbish everywhere.

This is a product of our local council’s economically driven schemes for bringing visitors and development to our perfectly adequate little town.

They secretly want to turn us into a poor man’s version of the resort towns in Queensland and NSW.

Unfortunately the pandemic is ably assisting them because, like many other regional areas, we are attracting Covid-19 refugees.

A sheep paddock on the edge of the town is slowly filling up with gigantic houses and sheds which the locals have dubbed Tumby Bay Heights.

The local tradesmen are flat out with the building and contractors are coming in from outside.

What will happen to all this development after the pandemic eases and these new people discover that living in the country isn’t their thing after all will be very interesting.

But I digress.

The restrictions around movement and socialising associated with the outbreak is a perfect catalyst for ennui, especially for retirees who are normally active and used to doing stuff.

There’s just so much reading, writing, editing and playing around with social media and the internet that you can do before boredom takes hold.

Even the old standby of pottering around in the garden or the garage has its limitations after a while.

As does marinating your brain in front of a television set.

The almost daily on-again, off-again rule changes make it next to impossible to keep up with what you are allowed to do or not do.

On top of that there is also the creeping suspicion that the pandemic has not yet done with us and still has a few surprises up its sleeve and we have a long way to go before normality returns, if at all.

As Dr Kerryn Phelps and her comrades at OzSAGE have pointed out, there will be more variants after Omicron – a possibility that our pig-headed politicians either haven’t imagined or don’t want to imagine.

They are too busy creating distractions like monstering tennis players to cover their multiple failures.

As a result the good citizens of Tumby Bay, like many other people in Australia, are feeling abandoned and on their own.

Personal survival is now the order of the day.

Lindsay F bond

As put by OzSAGE, "Vaccine targets must be met for all population subgroups...."


As put, not only for humanitarianism, that
'no-one-left-behind' applies to folk of all nations.

Imperative, indeed.

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