Dan O'Heirity

I’m going to start with my preferred data source – remembering that this data source is updated in real time for the number of new cases and new deaths with the figures being reset at GMT+0 – and I’m going to give yesterday’s full daily figures. Australia saw an increase of 100 cases giving a total of 6,152 confirmed cases. There was 1 new death bringing the total number of fatalities to 51. The same data source today – reported at 10.15 PM AEST which makes it 1.15 PM GMT – reports 51 new cases in Australia giving a total of with 6,203 cases with 2 new deaths bringing the total number of fatalities to 53.

Let’s begin with a news story which focuses on the growth factor for the virus in Australia. The growth factor measures how fast the number of new cases is going up or down. Calculating the daily growth factor involves taking new reported cases for any particular day and dividing that figure by by the number of new cases from the day before. If the growth factor is consistently below a figure of 1 then the number of new cases is declining. If the number is consistently above 1, then the number of new cases would be increasing. Having made this claim about the growth factor, the article states that matters might not be as straightforward as the figures indicate because,

A figure like this is only ever as good as the data being collected. So when reading the growth factor, another important factor to keep in mind is testing.

This just seems like common sense. If you’re carrying out hardly any testing then you’re not going to find many new cases. If you’re carrying out a lot of tests, particularly in areas where there has been a Covid-19 outbreak, then you are going to find more cases due to community transmission in the areas where there is a Covid-19 cluster. Finally, as a corollary, and a rather obvious one at that, if one country is testing extensively and another is testing minimally, then the country carrying out extensive testing is likely to identify more cases per head of the population than the country carrying out a minimal number of tests.

Next to the Australian news starting with a story about Australian politicians starting to focus on finding a way you out of the Covid-19 pandemic situation, a direction that is of course a reasonable one because we are “flattening the curve”. I know I sound like a broken record but, honestly, I expect a greater level of criticality from our news sources together with an exhibition of greater responsibility in informing the public about what might really be going on with community transmission in Australia. Perhaps, as the article suggests, this level of criticality has not occurred because people have been concerned about being “attacked” for betraying “team Australia”. Shame on them.

Anyway, back to the Covid-19 strategy story which reviews a possible Covid-19 scenario that would move Australia away from a suppression strategy towards a staged relaxing of social distancing measures to allow the virus to pass through the community whilst ensuring that the most vulnerable members of society – the elderly, those with pre-existing health conditions – were looked after. There is obviously an economic angle to this strategy as relaxing social distancing measures would enable some Australians to get back to work. For example, allowing restaurants and cafés to reopen which would provide employment for the hundreds and thousands of people in the hospitality services who are currently unemployed.

The Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt has said, in a statement that can only be considered to be utterly nonsensical, that Easter may be the single most significant weekend that we will face in the whole course of Australia’s actions to contain the virus. The reasons that the statement is nonsensical is that Australia’s testing rates for the Covid-19 are pretty low which means that we really have no idea about community transmission rates. Nor do we really know the extent to which people are practising social distancing. However, authorities may be fearing the worst over the Easter weekend as there have been multiple statements from leaders in the different States in Australia warning that the police will be using helicopters and number plate technology to identify people who are flouting the social distancing rules..

I reported a week or so ago that the Australian Immigration Minister had asked a significant number of New Zealanders living in Australia under the 444 Visa Scheme to leave the country. President Trump has used emergency health measures to turn away 10,000 unauthorized migrants from America’s borders. A Boston law lecturer has opined that Trump is exploiting the Covid-19 virus to institute draconian anti-immigration measures. The point that I am making here – and it could apply to any country in the world – is that it would seem wise for people to become citizens in the countries where they are residing because a pandemic more severe than Covid-19 could well see countries simply shutting their borders to non-citizens.

It would be fair to say that I have consistently pointed out that a certain percentage of Australians are just idiots and they are not grasping the seriousness of the Covid-19 pandemic. Events on Good Friday once again proved this to be the case with hundreds of Australians flocking to beaches just as they did in New South Wales at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in Australia. Other holiday goers have been travelling to Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula despite very strong advice from the Premier and the Police Commissioner not to do so. There seems to be a story of racism in Australia nearly every day and today is no exception. In this first story, a man – who it would have to be said appears to be quintessentially outback Australian in a leather cowboy hat and cracking a bullwhip – shouts racial abuse at visitors outside the Chinese Consulate. In a second story, a woman is caught on video screaming racial abuse at a man of Asian descent, who works for Telstra.

First Published April 10th, 2020

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