Dan O'Heirity

Today I am going to start by reviewing the Covid-19 statistics for Australia because I live in Australia and I am becoming increasingly perturbed by the data that is being reported and by the multiple and conflicting claims that are being made for future Covid-19 scenarios in Australia. Using my preferred data source – which is updated in real time with data for new cases and new deaths and reset at GMT+0 – I’m going to give yesterday’s full day figures as per GMT. Australia saw an increase of 200 confirmed cases giving a total of 5,750 confirmed cases. There were 7 new deaths bringing the total number of fatalities to 37. The same data source today – reported at 10.15 PM AEST which makes it 1.15 PM GMT – reports 45 new cases in Australia giving a total of with 5,795 cases with 2 new deaths bringing the total number of fatalities to 39.

Whilst there seems to be almost worldwide agreement that China is falsifying its Covid-19 reports so that reported cases and fatalities are far lower than actual cases and fatalities, Australia is, I believe, being disingenuous with its reporting because Australia has tested only about 1% of its population and thus Australia has no real idea of the number of Covid-19 cases in Australia. This fact seems to me to be indisputable. If you have only tested 1% of the population then there is no real way of knowing just how prevalent the Chinese virus is in Australia. Furthermore, if the actual number of cases is not known then it would seem to be difficult to model the potential spread of the virus in terms of different scenarios such as scenarios for the majority of people adhering to lock down measures and scenarios in which people flout social distancing measures.

Yesterday I reported a story suggesting that Australian’s could be in lock down until the summer which means the months of December through February in Australia because even with effective social distancing the peak of the virus is likely to be late October. Note that point carefully. The prediction assumes that people adhere to social distancing measures and yet the model still predicts that it will be the summer before the virus has peaked in Australia. Today, 6th April, 2020, there is a story arguing that if 90% of the country adopted social distancing measures then active cases would peak by mid-April and the virus would be under control in Australia by mid-July. In this scenario estimates for the number of people in Australia who would contract the virus range from 8,000 – 10,000 people. This story also suggests that data modelling shows that the Australian Government’s lockdown measures have been effective in combatting the virus in the State of New South Wales.

So on the one hand we have a prediction that the peak of the CCP virus in Australia could be reached within a week or so and on other hand we have a projection that the peak of the CCP virus will not be reached for 8 months or so and even then the story suggests that social distancing measures may have to be in place for between 18 months and 2 years. I’m not a data analyst and so I find these wildly differing predictions to be confusing, particularly as both predictions seem to assume the effectiveness of social distancing measures. To put it another way, the differing predictions would have made sense to me if the first “best case model” had assumed that social distancing would be highly effective with the second “worst case scenario” assuming that social distancing would not be effective because the common denominator in each case would have been the effectiveness – or not – of social distancing measures. However, such is not the case.

An article published on the 5th April is reporting that families of victims of the Covid-19 virus may be able to bring lawsuits against companies, health authorities and even governmental organizations for negligence. Health workers may also be able to sue the government for failure to provide them with the required protective clothing. The article conjectures that Australia’s approach to the virus, which was to wait until a critical number of Covid-19 cases occurred before going into lockdown, could come under scrutiny in this respect. The article also notes that over a three week period the government has shifted position from saying that mass sporting events are acceptable to limiting gatherings to 500 people, then 100, then 10 and now to two people with a 1.5 meter distance between the two people. It would be fair to say that unlike the earlier article about the positive impact of lockdown measures in New South Wales, this article is fundamentally questioning the government’s Covid-19 lockdown strategy.

Way back in the mists of time I reported a story on Americans lining up at guns shops to stock up on supplies of weapons and ammunition. Today there was a story in Australia about limits being placed on gun sales in the State of Victoria after a single week saw 2,200 applications for fire arms, double the number of applications from the week before. I did not see that one coming. However, what I did seem coming was the move in the next story to boot out New Zealanders living Australia under the 444 Visa Scheme. Let me explain. Under what is known as the 444 Visa Scheme, Australians and New Zealanders can move freely between the two countries to live and to work without any requirement to obtain a work visa. The Australian Immigration Minister recently made it clear that he wants a substantive number of New Zealanders to leave Australia, specifically those in casual work, insecure work or those who are out of work.

Exact numbers of New Zealanders who would be impacted by this directive are difficult to determine because of the 672,000 New Zealanders on the 444 Visa Scheme, those who entered Australia prior to 2001 are entitled to Centrelink Benefits (unemployment benefit) and those in full-time or part-time work are eligible for the Australian Government’s Job Keeper Scheme. Being eligible for unemployment benefits and for the Job Keeper Scheme means that these New Zealanders would not be expected to leave Australia. Those who remain are the ones who would be expected to leave. The New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern is described as being “furious” over the directive reminding Australia that New Zealanders in Australia “on average, earn more and pay more taxes than others“. Interesting point Jacinda as is the point that Jacinda makes that Australia will need its New Zealand residents to help the country get back to “normal” once this virus has passed.

So let’s posit a scenario. I came into Australia under the 444 Visa Scheme. I have lived here for four years and paid around $140,000 in tax to the Australian government during those four years. If I had, like so many others, found myself unemployed due to the Covid-19 virus then I would fall into the class of 444 Visa holders identified by the Immigration Minister. Furthermore, there would be no chance of me securing another University position for at least 12 months, perhaps more because Universities in Australia have put a complete freeze on hiring new staff. The prospect of being unemployed for six months is another criterion used by the Immigration Minister to show New Zealanders the door. Thus, in this scenario I would likely find myself in the position of being asked to leave the country despite the exorbitant taxes that I have paid and despite the fact that my skillset will be crucial in helping Universities to rebuild in the future.

Border control in Australia has been intercepting Covid-19 Test Kits sent from China. Not surprisingly these testing kits do not work which means that people in China are trying to profit form sending dodgy Covid-19 testing kits to Australia. Meanwhile the United States is suffering from a shortage of ventilators which is ironic because in the early days of the Covid-19 virus, America sold 27.2 million dollars of ventilators to China along with a whole range of other medical supplies. Really, could Covid-19 matters become any more bizarre or surreal. One wonders if China is selling the American made ventilators back to the United States at a significant profit margin. Or perhaps China is selling its Chinese made ventilators to the United States and keeping the American made ventilators for themselves. Who knows but what we do know is that China has not done well, to say the least, in its bid to be looked upon favourably by the world by sending medical equipment to countries ravaged by a disease that originated in Wuhan, China.

First Published April 6th, 2020

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