Covid19 News Headlines Are Just Bullshit
There are times when just have to call out bullshit for what it is and so here I go. The last few days in Australia has seen multiple stories with alarmist headlines about a possible “second wave” of the CCP virus and “Victorian coronavirus spike sparks warning over second peak from chief health officer.“ The reason for these alarmist headlines is that the State of Victoria has reported 25 new CCP virus cases in a 24 hour period. According to my favourite and reliable data source, as of today June 26th, 2020 there have been 7,436 confirmed cases of the CCP virus in Australia. There have been 102 reported deaths from the CCP virus. Given these facts it should be obvious to all but the most recalcitrant of individuals that there has never been a first wave of the CCP virus in Australia. In fact, it would be more than fair to say that the CCP virus has been a complete non-event in Australia.
The Seasonal Influenza Argument Should Win the Day
I can make the same point in a different way by providing the annual figures for confirmed influenza cases in Australia along with figures for estimated number of deaths from influenza every year in Australia. Starting with a story from The Guardian on the 7th May 2019, “Experts predict about 4,000 people will die from complications due to influenza this year as the number of infections increase again following a quiet 2018. There have already been 40,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza in 2019, almost three times the number recorded at the same time in recent years.” The story goes on to report that, “the latest ABS statistics showed 1,200 people died due to influenza in 2017, [but] modelling showed the actual number of deaths on average each season was about 3,000 to 4,000.”
Remember the CCP virus figures as reported today, June 26th. There have been 7,436 confirmed cases and 102 reported deaths from the CCP virus. So, basically, the number of influenza cases and the number of deaths from influenza for the period through to June 2019 are off the charts as compared with the number of confirmed CCP cases and the number of confirmed deaths from the CCP virus in the first six months of 2020. You might quite fairly say that I should have reported influenza data from the first six months of 2020 to do a direct comparison with the CCP data from the first six months of this year. Well, here is the 2020 influenza data as reported by the Australian Influenza Surveillance Report – No 04 – week ending 31 May 2020.
According to this report, “There is no indication of the potential severity of the 2020 season at this time. In the year to date, of the 20,548 notifications of laboratory confirmed influenza, 36 (0.18%) laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated deaths have been notified to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS).” So, the number of confirmed cases of influenza in the first 5 months of 2020 is almost 3 times as high as the number of confirmed cases for the CCP virus. The number of reported influenza deaths is lower than the reported number of deaths from the CCP virus. However, at the risk of sounding somewhat callous, the difference in the number of deaths is just 66 deaths. It would, therefore, be something of a stretch to say that the CCP mortality rate is any more severe than the influenza fatality rate.
Note that the influenza report stated that, “There is no indication of the potential severity of the 2020 season at this time.” For this reason I am going to go back to the 2019 figures. I accessed the “Australian Influenza Surveillance Report No 5, 2019, June 17-30 2019.” According to this report, “In the year to date, there have been 119,808 notifications of laboratory-confirmed influenza to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS). This fortnight there were 22,047 notifications of laboratory-confirmed influenza to the NNDSS. This is a slight increase in reported cases compared to the previous fortnight (n=19,353).” This means that during the months of January through to June 2019 there were 119,808 laboratory confirmed influenza cases. During the same period in 2020 there have been 7,436 confirmed cases of the CCP virus.
As far as deaths go for the 2019 period under consideration, “231 influenza-associated deaths have been notified to the NNDSS. The majority of deaths were due to influenza A (98%, n=227).” So far there have been 102 CCP virus deaths in Australia in 2020. There is a fascinating data site for CCP virus statistics in Australia which I would highly recommend visiting. According to the data on this site, as of today 26th June 2020, 53.92% of those who have died from the CCP virus have been male and 46.08 % have been female. 2 males and 1 female under 60 have died from the virus. 5 males and 5 females in their 60s have died from the virus. 22 males and 12 females in their 70s have died from the virus. 17 males and 17 females in their 80s have died from the virus. 8 males and 12 females in their 90s have died from the virus. This means that 88 of those who have died from the CCP virus have been 70 years or older. Taking the total number of deaths to be 102, 86.27% of those who died from the CCP virus have been 70 years old or over.
There Has Been No Covid-19 Pandemic in Australia
The WHO defines a pandemic as a virus emerging and spreading around the world when most people do not have an immunity to the virus. This definition does rather state the obvious and in doing so it does not really go beyond a dictionary definition of a pandemic. However, the WHO provides further defining characteristics of a pandemic. First, “the impact or severity tends to be higher in pandemics in part because of the much larger number of people in the population who lack pre-existing immunity to the new virus.” This would seem to be natural when a virus such as the CCP virus emerges for the first time. Secondly, pandemics impact not just the old and those with pre-existing medical conditions but a much broader range of the population including, for example, younger people. I shall have to take the word of the WHO on this one. That said, I would have thought that whether or not this is actually the case would be contingent on the exact nature of the virus.
Australia has not been impacted by a pandemic because the severity of the CCP virus is far lower than the severity of a normal influenza season and because the CCP virus has caused deaths in the older members of the population and in those with pre-existing medical conditions. The point that I want to make is that news stories with alarmist headlines are just that, alarmist. However, new stories are never “neutral” and headlines such as these make me wonder whose purposes are being served by peddling these untruths. One might conjecture that the headlines are all about selling newspapers and this is undoubtedly true. People will tend to read scaremongering stories. However, other agendas are being served. Scott Morrison, for example, is looking very good after the pandemic that never was and now the government might successfully contain a “second wave of the virus” after which the government will be looking even better.
First Published June 26th, 2020