How do they think infection will fix Covid?
13 February 2022
“A pandemic is over when we stop widespread infection. It’s in the definition” - Dr Henry Madison
NOOSA – I’ve had a fair bit to say recently, rather more on Twitter than here, about the tragedy being played out in Australia as fools gain the upper hand in determining Covid policy.
It has been a struggle that pitted politics and commerce against science (see quote by the Queensland chief health officer quoted in the box below). And science lost.
It turned out to be an uneven struggle. The deranged policy switch that has let the virus run, a policy defying the science and ignoring best practice, has condemned many Australians, especially those in aged care facilities, to death and many more to chronic illness.
It is an unbelievably reckless approach which has forsaken good planning and careful implementation thereby enabling the rapid spread of Covid through the community.
Too many influential Australian politicians, health bureaucrats and academics were willing to force feed the population with contemptible policy and contaminated information.
Policies and information that often contradicted authoritative studies from the world’s leading medical researchers and that dismissed the reality that millions of Australians were experiencing or observing around them.
In throwing open the front door to Covid, Australian authorities have also shown not to understand risk, which in its simplest formulation can be represented in the equation risk = severity + probability.
They quickly understood that Omicron was less severe than the Delta that preceded it. But they ignored its probability: the probability that, because of its extreme infectiousness, it would affect many more people.
One outcome of this policy was to bring schools back before there had been mass vaccination of students and before most schools were not equipped to take the precautions necessary to slow the spread of the virus.
So it was that Queensland’s chief health officer Gerrard last week announced 1,149 cases in children aged between five and 17 in a single 24 hour period last week.
Gerrard said he was “not unduly concerned” about that huge number of infected children. In fact he should have been alarmed.
Statistics from research conducted by the American Academy of Paediatrics show that as many of 1.9% of children under 16 infected by Covid will be hospitalised. Other studies have shown a likely hospitalisation rate of 1.3% to 1.5%.
Adopting the middle of that range and applying it to last Thursday in Queensland, we could expect 17 of those children to be hospitalised.
And, applying US experience again, it could be expected that 160 of those children will end up with Long Covid.
There has been a rush to get children back to school to avoid further disruption to their education.
But in doing this in the absence of full vaccination and preparations to make classrooms safe, there has been a dreadful lapse of logic.
When community transmission is high, education is disrupted. More children become ill, hospital admissions rise and the number of children suffering the chronic illness Long Covid increases.
Earlier this month a child aged “under 10” died of Covid in Queensland. Gerrard adopted the scoundrel’s defence to allege that the child had a “very serious underlying rare inherited medical condition”.
But it wasn’t that condition that killed the child, it was Covid.
A disease that had been allowed to spread through the community without anywhere near the appropriate precautions.
The public health system that Australians have enjoyed and relied upon and been grateful for has taken a huge backwards step.
And, until our alleged leaders and experts begin to understand the implications of risk = severity + probability, and the wisdom of heeding science, things seem unlikely to get much better.
The analogy of a roulette wheel is most appropriate, especially considering the $3.6 billion Queen's Wharf development in Brisbane.
Its casino can be loaded with up to 2500 gaming machines and forms the development's centrepiece, but its gambling nature no longer appears in Palaszczuk government ministerial proclamations.
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 14 February 2022 at 09:37 AM
And what Chris alluded to, but did not explicitly state, is that the evaluation of those risks changed over time as the next national election approached.
Posted by: Ross Wilkinson | 13 February 2022 at 05:17 PM
We are all just units of consumption in this 1984 world.
What happened to 'herd immunity' at 80% of the over-16 population?
The article, 'We can’t vaccinate this pandemic away', by Professor Robert Clancy is a must read.
The South Australian premier Marshall is now talking of a fourth booster. Well, that should last a month or two, premier.
Posted by: John Greenshields | 13 February 2022 at 05:16 PM
"The collective principle asserts that ... no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means" - Aneurin Bevan
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 13 February 2022 at 04:20 PM
The decisions taken to open up the Australian economy once again have been based upon a series of assumptions.
The first is that the now highly vaccinated population will be able to withstand the ravages of the virus without suffering undue harm.
This is probably correct unless you happen to be old and vulnerable, with a pre-existing condition such as cancer or heart disease or emphysema or some sort of neurological problem.
The number of people in this category is much larger than is commonly understood, so inherent in the decision to open up is an acceptance that there will be casualties mainly from this group.
Underpinning that acceptance is a much more sinister rationale, being that the sacrifice of a relative handful of older or otherwise more susceptible people is just the price that has to be paid for restoring the economy as fast as possible. No-one will openly admit to this calculus but it is clearly there.
Most of the restrictions previously put in place were not, in fact, aimed primarily at protecting public health but mostly at protecting the beleaguered public health system.
That this was necessary is partly a reflection of the virulence of the virus but, more importantly, reflects the extent to which a succession of governments have failed to adequately invest in creating a strong and resilient public health system.
The various deficiencies that have been allowed to grow have now been horribly exposed for all to see and many people have belatedly come to understand that the repeated reassurances about our strong and resilient health system have been self serving nonsense propagated by a political class caught out by its own manifest failings.
A second assumption has been that because the Omicron variant is less lethal than its Delta predecessor it was therefore sensible to expose the wider community to it for the sake of the much talked about but still elusive 'herd immunity'.
Again, this assumption ignores the fact that Omicron is every bit as lethal as the original Alpha strain of the virus and the conspicuous absence of 'herd immunity' even in countries like the USA and UK, both which continue to experience successive waves of infections and deaths even with quite high vaccination rates.
I suppose that, eventually, some form of herd immunity will develop but it is by no means clear when this might be and to what extent it will mitigate the worst effects of the virus.
The two most important 'unknown unknowns' that should be front of mind for politicians and their health advisers are, firstly, what is the level of risk that a new and much more lethal mutation of the virus might occur.
And, secondly, to what extent will the widely reported but still largely poorly understood 'Long Covid' have an adverse impact upon the population, both in the short and the long term.
My guess is that our political leadership have explicitly decided that the political, economic and social risks attached to keeping the increasingly restive population locked down or subject to various burdensome restrictions now outweigh those attached to opening up the economy in the face of repeated demands that life be allowed to return to 'normal'.
This may turn out to be the right call but if it goes wrong then the potential consequences may be dire.
In any event, the bet has been made and the chips placed on the table of life's roulette wheel. When it stops spinning we will know both whether and what we have won or lost.
Posted by: Chris Overland | 13 February 2022 at 02:13 PM
Weak at the needs? Any 'duly' concerneds
Providence is the promise adhered to also by the Taliban.
In two years, Australians learn deaths from Covid are to be 'expected'. See:
Masking is full blown when expectations need to be so openly met.
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 13 February 2022 at 12:46 PM
For some considerable time the Federal Coalition has been founded on old testament-style cruelty.
It began with John Howard and his treatment of boat people and refugees and has been progressively perpetuated by our current prime minister, both in his past and present roles.
Howard’s privatisation of aged care has turned out to be the ultimate pinnacle of that cruelty. Handing the lives of our vulnerable elderly over to profit driven private enterprise overseen by a neoliberal federal government was always going to end badly.
Because Morrison is severely constrained by the archaic orthodoxies of his particular brand of Christianity it is virtually pointless to expect his medieval mind to grasp issues like state sponsored cruelty.
This is a man who professes to believe in miracles after all. In the same sense he is not going to do anything about other pressing concerns like climate change, gendered violence and social inequity. No doubt he believes miracles will take care of those issues too.
This year it would be far better for everyone to concentrate on electing a prime minister with less religious fervour and a government with more progressive enlightenment
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 13 February 2022 at 11:48 AM