Dan O'Heirity

How Reliable is Covid-19 Data?

Early on in these blog posts I suggested that whilst China was surely falsifying its reporting on the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases and deaths, Australia was being utterly disingenuous in reporting figures for confirmed cases based on incredibly low testing rates. In other words, Australia really had no idea how many people in the country had been infected with the CCP virus because the low testing rate did not allow them to make such a judgement. I didn’t extend the argument at the time but there is obviously a question of the reliability of Covid-19 data reported by any particular country that one might wish to choose. Think for example of all the asymptomatic cases worldwide that will never have been “captured” and reported. Think of all the people who had only mild symptoms and who never reported to a GP or a hospital.

The question of the accuracy of the data reported for Covid-19 deaths is a little trickier. One might argue that the number of deaths from Covid-19 has been under reported because, for example, health systems in countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain were so overwhelmed that they simply had no time to accurately record the number of deaths. On the other hand there is an argument for the fact that deaths have been over reported because no distinction is made in the data between people who died with Covid-19 and people who died from Covid-19. For example, an elderly person with pre-existing medical conditions might die with the virus i.e. they are infected and they die but not from the virus because the cause of death was actually one of the pre-existing conditions.

Brazilian President Tries to Hide True Number of Covid-19 Deaths

I’ve reported on Covid-19 figures for confirmed cases and deaths in Brazil on a number of occasions because Brazil was in what we might refer to as phase two of the pandemic. That is, it was a country that saw a huge increase in the number of confirmed cases and deaths after the virus had first swept through Europe and the United States. According to my preferred live data source, as of today, Brazil has reported 691,962 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 37,312 fatalities. The question is how much stock we should put in these figures because it has been reported that experts have been questioning Brazil’s figures for months. Also, “Brazil has taken the extraordinary step of stopping coronavirus death reporting, in move critics claim is an attempt to hide the true toll of the disease in Latin America’s largest nation“.

As far as I can tell, this move has come from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro who, it is reported, has been trying to downplay the severity of the virus in Brazil. An ally of Bolsonaro’s has suggested that local states have reported falsified data with the implication being that these states have exaggerated the figures for Covid-19 cases and fatalities. On the other side of the argument we have a council of state health secretaries in Brazil saying that, “The authoritarian, insensitive, inhumane and unethical attempt to make the COVID-19 deaths invisible will not prosper.” Furthermore, Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes said on Twitter that, “manipulating statistics is a manoeuvre of totalitarian regimes“. The comment on totalitarian regimes must resonate with those of us who believe China has continually falsified its Covid-19 data.

China Continues to Try to Bully and Intimidate Australia

Now it is time for a few stories about the evil regime in Beijing. I’ve reported in a number of stories that China has imposed 80% tariffs on Australian Barley and that China has also stopped importing beef from 4 of Australia’s abattoirs. China has also threatened that Chinese students will not want to come to Australia and that Chinese tourists will stop visiting Australia. Now China has followed through on the thinly veiled threat to stop Chinese tourists coming to Australia. China has done this under the guise of warning its citizens that there have been increased racist attacks on Chinese and Asian people in Australia. The same article reports Marianna Sigala, Professor of Tourism at the University of South Australia, as saying that the Covid-19 virus has exacerbated levels of racism that already existed in Australia.

The story goes on to say that, “Sigala – who is not Australian-born but has worked and lived in Australia for several years – said from what she had seen in her experience, Australia does have an issue with racism.” Not Australian. Mmmm. That must mean something. Perhaps that she is not to be trusted. it is certainly the case that there have been racist attacks on people of Asian appearance since the Covid-19 pandemic began. However, Federal Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has “rejected China’s travel warning as having “no basis in fact”. He went on to say that Australia was “the most successful multicultural and migrant society in the world”. That’s a pretty big claim to make and I have no idea how one would actually verify that such a claim. In any case, it matters not because China will follow through on stopping Chinese tourists coming to Australia and there will be a big economic hit for the tourism industry.

Australia has the same problem with Chinese students not filling our institutes of Higher Education in 2020. This fact has led to Australian universities scrabbling to get the international “cash cow” students back on its shores as soon as possible. In terms of thinking differently, it has also led to one university President arguing that universities can engage in a paradigm shift and think of e-mobility experiences. The President does acknowledge that, “approximating cultural immersion virtually will be a challenge, but what we learn by doing so might help us reshape the future of international education as we know it today“. However, if China and Australia relations remain as they are then we will not be seeing Chinese students filling virtual teaching spaces. Thus, Australia is going to have to look elsewhere to make up for the revenue lost by the absence of Chinese students.

China’s Leadership is Incredibly Racist as Are Some Chinese

The result of China’s ongoing arrogance, bullying and intimidation of Australia will likely be that Australians will become – quite rightly – even angrier at China and this anger will likely translate into increasing racism against Chinese living in Australia. This is racism of a certain sort and it falls under the Australian Government’s definition of racism which states that racism includes “prejudice, discrimination or hatred directed at someone because of their colour, ethnicity or national origin“. I would likely add violence to the definition because racism results in physical violence. As far as this definition goes, most of us would agree with Australia’s race discrimination commissioner, Chin Tan who has said that, “Coronavirus has nothing to do with race or nationality — and neither fear of the virus, nor frustration at the difficulties we all face, are excuses for discrimination.”

The definition of racism given above is just one definition. Racism can also be defined as, “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others“. I am going to say that Beijing’s attitude towards the rest of the world is racist and we are now seeing China’s racism on the world stage. China’s actions in, for example, imposing a new security law on Hong Kong shows more than a disregard for world opinion. It actually evidences the fact that Beijing believes that has the right to do as it pleases because Beijing conceives of itself as inherently superior to the rest of the world.

The other issue with Beijing calling out Australia for racist attacks on Chinese is that racism is rife in China and has been for a very long time, particularly against persons of sub-Saharan African descent. Furthermore, this racism is overt as in the case where “black people” were banned from a McDonalds. In this case, workers at McDonalds held up a sign saying “Black People Not Allowed”. The article mentions that the workers did not seem to be in any way embarrassed by what they were doing. Ironically, racism against persons of sub-Saharan African descent also has to do with the fact that there is a backlash against sub-Saharan Africans because they are thought most likely to be carriers and transmitters of the coronavirus. This fact almost defies belief. In conclusion, two wrongs do not make a right but Beijing should take a good look at China before throwing out charges of racism against Australia.

First Published June 8th, 2020

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