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We've got our Covid policy ass backwards

The target of Australia's medical authorities is not to reduce Covid transmission. Rather, the target is to reduce Covid mitigation measures - and then to ignore any negative effects of doing so

Dr David Berger is a general practitioner and emergency doctor based in Broome, Western Australia. He uses this aircraft, in which he's flown around the world, in his remote medical activities

| Twitter @YouAreLobbyLud

BROOME, WA - I want to make a really fundamental point. The way Covid policy is being pursued is ass backwards.

The success targets are the measures themselves. In other words, there are no meaningful targets, no valid measures of success.

As an example, in my hospital system Covid mitigation measures are being wound down ‘as we learn to live with Covid’ [of course]. But what does that mean?

Let's go back to the point of those mitigation measures in the first place.

It's ‘to prevent people inside a hospital - staff, patients, visitors - from catching Covid’.

I mean, isn't it? After all, there's no other plausible rationale.

So, if we accept that the point is to prevent transmission of Covid, we must gauge the success and necessity of those measures by how well they prevent transmission of Covid.

But that isn't what we do.

We just go ahead and reduce them in line with some kind of arbitrary external parameter, generally case numbers, even when we know case data is wildly (and deliberately) inaccurate.

The actual effect of those Covid mitigation measures, the very reason they are in place - to reduce intra-hospital transmission of Covid - is not measured at all.

No, the reduction or stepping up of Covid mitigation measures depends on an arbitrary factor - case numbers - entirely unrelated to the primary purpose of the measures concerned.

Put like that, it's laughable. So what do we conclude?

We conclude that partisan political considerations, namely the need to declare that the Covid pandemic is on the way out, directly drive infection control measures in hospitals.

The target is not to reduce Covid transmission at all.

Rather, the target is to reduce Covid mitigation measures.

And ignore any negative effects of doing so.

As I wrote at the beginning, the targets are the mitigation measures themselves, not the reduction of Covid.

This leaves healthcare in a chaotic whirl of purposeless, targetless, self-serving activity, with no focus on what it is actually trying to achieve.

With minor tweaks, this analysis can be applied across much of Covid policy-making, in which a politically desirable intended outcome (for example, get rid of masks or abandon isolation) is defined and then measures are trimmed to move towards that outcome.

The problem is that these outcomes are nothing to do with the Public Health.

The bigger problem is that our Public Health bodies and professionals appear to have sold their souls and become political patsies.

They seem to be dedicated to prostituting 150 years of advancement in Public Health to appease the short term goals of their political masters.

I don't know what happened to ethics in medicine.

I kind of thought there was a higher standard once, but I'm not even sure of that now.

It’s probably just a rosy nostalgia for a Golden Age that, like all Golden Ages, never really existed.


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Bernard Corden

Dear Phil,

Back in the mid 1980s I can remember watching a documentary by David Bradbury entitled Hasta Cuando, which featured the atrocities in Chile during Pinochet's overthrow of the Allende government.

It was underpinned by Friedman economics with a focus on plundering resources from the vast Escondida mine in the Atacama desert.

It involved all the usual corporate brigands.

When will it end?

Chris Overland

HI Bill. I am delighted to know that Soc Kienzle is alive and well. I knew Soc very well whilst living at Kokoda.

As to Covid, the economic calculus is as described by Phil and Bernard. As almost all Covid deaths are amongst those 65 years or much older, so the economic cost of each death is relatively trivial. This is a cynical but accurate understanding of the situation.

The biggest risk in all this arises if and when a much more lethal variant of Covid appears. This is what is called a low probability but high consequence risk. So far, those betting against the appearance of such a virus appear to be correct but the proverbial 'Black Swan' event cannot be utterly discounted.

There is another risk of course, being the impact of Long Covid. This is a high probability but uncertain consequence risk.

Long Covid impacts on all age groups but, so it seems, especially the young. Its duration and severity appear highly variable, ranging from a few weeks to perhaps indefinitely. The truth is, no-one really knows what its impact will be over the long term, so our politicians are essentially betting that it will not be economically consequential.

Never mind about the human impact of all this. Once you conceptualise people as economic units, the sorts of calculations we all recognise here become perfectly logical, even reasonable.

I think that our political class is now so enculturated into the neo-liberal capitalist system that they are not even aware of how it has impacted their thinking. The same is probably true of most of our fellow citizens, most of whom have plainly decided that resuming 'normal' life is preferable to tolerating the embuggerances of things like masks, constant hand sanitising and so forth.

The response to Covid is just one manifestation of the neo-liberal logic that constantly preferences the interests of the economy and, especially, the rich and powerful at the expense of the 'little people'.

The new British PM and her Chancellor may have done us all a favour but taking this thinking to its logical extreme in their decision to overtly preference the rich via tax cuts in the utterly crazy belief that this will kick start the stuttering British economy. Even the rich and powerful don't believe this anymore and have reacted accordingly.

So, perhaps, the 40 year long experiment with neo-liberal economics may be drawing to a close. Whether this causes our political elites to reconsider their response to Covid remains to be seen.

Lindsay F Bond

Actually, alphabetic arranged,

Bernard Corden

As soon as I hear any politician irrespective of their political stripes say, "Let me make this crystal clear", Odin's dark fog clouds come sweeping down from the north.

It is a lay down misere that subject matter will be littered with obfuscation and complexity and if you take the exact opposite view, you will be much closer to the truth.

The NSW premier, Dominic 'Dead Parrot' Perrottet wouldn't go wumph if you put five thousand volts through him.

Terence Kelliher

As soon as I heard the first politician say "Learning to live with Covid", I knew it really meant "Learning to die with Covid" and so we are in the thousands.

True Terrence, some 14,000 this year and many more to come. Almost unbelievable what our governments are doing to us - KJ

Philip Fitzpatrick

I think the Chicago School of Economics actually recommended engineering a crisis, fake or otherwise, to create economic opportunities.

This was aligned with their other belief that destroying a society so it had to be rebuilt was a great way to make money too. In this aspect they were ably assisted by the CIA - notably in Latin America.

Bernard Corden

The policy is about making an economic opportunity out of a crisis, which is a fundamental tenet of gangster capitalism.

"The way to make money is to buy when blood is running in the streets" - JD Rockefeller

We should not be counting how many billionaires are produced but ensuring families and their children do not experience a life of poverty.

William Dunlop

My good friend of some 50 years, Soc Kienzle, posted on Facebook 19 hours ago, 'NASA Facts on Climate Change, which are most alarming, as is this article by Dr Berger.

My comments to Soc.

So much for the huffing and puffing of the political fraternity, entirely up themselves, totally incapable of addressing reality.

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