Dan O'Heirity

Global Covid-19 Confirmed Cases and Deaths

The number of new reported cases globally continues to increase at a dramatic rate. According to my preferred data source – which reports new cases and new fatalities on a daily basis with the data being reset at GMT+0 – we have so far seen 11,747,823 confirmed cases of the Chinese virus. There have been 540,840 confirmed deaths from the virus. Figures for yesterday showed 171,508 new cases and 3,583 new deaths. Figures from two days ago showed 178,388 new cases and 3,603 new fatalities. Basically the virus remains rampant around the world but the death toll is nothing like it was in the early days of the virus. At some point I need to look into why the number of fatalities currently ravaged by the virus are not as high as they were when the virus first took hold in the United States and in Europe.

The “Storm in a Teacup” Continues over new Chinese Virus Cases in Australia

Australia continues to be in a “tizzy” because the country has seen a few hundred new cases of the Chinese virus, with nearly every case occurring in Melbourne which is located in the State of Victoria. I reported on this story in my previous post so I’m not going to go into detail again in this post. If you want to take a look at the spread of the virus in Melbourne, then there are some great interactive maps on this website from “The Age”. Metropolitan Melbourne – which covers 12 postcode areas in the city – will be returning to stage three lock down measures which means that people can only leave their homes for four reasons: food shopping, care-giving, exercise and work / study (if this cannot be done at home). The New South Wales – Victoria border will once again be closed with Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox saying that a “Berlin Wall” has been erected between New South Wales and Victoria.

Talk of a Berlin Wall is, of course, utterly ridiculous and demonstrates no sense of history. However, the question of closing borders is interesting. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been criticized for supporting the closure of the New South Wales / Victoria Border because his support is seen as something of a volte face from a position where he was consistently arguing that health facts did not support the closure of borders. The reason that I find this fact odd is that, just as is the case with international borders, it seems like common sense to try to prevent people who might have the virus from crossing State borders. As I argued in one of my very early posts, the question is not whether borders should be closed but, rather, how effectively border controls are managed. If managed effectively then infected people will be prevented from crossing State lines and from spreading the virus more widely.

Australian Universities Unable to Think Beyond Continuing to Milk Their Cash Cow International Students

The Australian Higher Education Sector has been in a state of absolute turmoil since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic because these universities – run by Vice Chancellors nearly all of whom are earning over $1,000,000 per annum – had over exposed themselves to the international market. In some cases, Australian universities were making 50% of their income from international students. The result of the pandemic has been that the universities have lost a huge amount of revenue and this has seen each university “sacking” hundreds of staff in cost saving measures. I would argue that the over reliance on international students was a massive failure of strategy and that universities should now be developing plans that would see them being able to survive a worst case scenario of having no international students. Driven by government initiatives, University’s are reconsidering their strategies. However, international students remain a focus.

Universities are trying to figure out how they can get their international students back on campus at the earliest opportunity. This position has reached the point of absurdity with talk about opening borders to international students even though borders between the different States in Australia will continue to be closed. This is a definite shift of position because early on in the piece there was talk of internal borders needing to be open along with a very clear directive that domestic students would need to be able to return to campus ahead of international students being allowed to return to Australia. However, the situation would now appear to be that State lines can remain closed – meaning that some domestic students would not be able to return to their university – whilst at least some international students are to be allowed back into Australia.

In my view, Australia is presaging its international students over its domestic students and that fact is just plain wrong. Secondly, there is the obvious health risk from opening our international borders and assurances of rigorous quarantine measures should not be taken at face value given the recent quarantine debacle in Melbourne. Call me perverse but my hope is that the plan backfires so that Universities in Australia are once again shown to be short sighted and strategically inept in placing their focus on the international student market. The Chinese government has warned its citizens against travelling to Australia and it has warned students against studying in Australia. There is some indication that these warnings have impacted the decision of students whether or not to study in Australia. If this is the case, then it would seem that Australian universities will remain in serious trouble in terms of loss of international student revenue.

Why is China Pretending to be Such a Good Global Citizen in Reporting a Potential Swine Flu Pandemic?

I find the next two stories odd because both have to do with China warning the world about the potential for new pandemics. In the first story, Chinese scientists have published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), warning the world about a new strain of flu virus that could be passed from pigs to humans. The flu strain apparently has pandemic potential. I won’t pretend to understand the science but the published paper says that the EA H1N1 virus has what is known as a G4 genotype.

Of concern is that swine workers show elevated seroprevalence for G4 virus. Controlling the prevailing G4 EA H1N1 viruses in pigs and close monitoring in human populations, especially the workers in swine industry, should be urgently implemented.

So, here we have China – the country that failed to warn the world about either about SARS or Covid-19 in anything like a timely fashion – forewarning the world that there is a new virus with pandemic potential. I would make a couple of points. First, Chinese scientists do not publish anything unless the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has approved the publication. Secondly, and as a corollary to this point, the CCP controls research publications in order to tell the story about China that it wants to be told. In this case, the story that the CCP wants to tell is that China is being responsible in identifying a potential pandemic virus and reporting it to the the world.

In a second story, China has apparently reported cases of the Bubonic Plague in Bayannur which is a city in Inner Mongolia. Chinese authorities have banned the hunting and eating of certain wild animals that could carry the plague. Apparently this story follows on from a story in November 2019 about four people in Inner Mongolia contracting the plague, two of whom contracted the pneumonic plague. A second story covers this report of the bubonic plague noting, as with the previous story, that there have been other reports of cases of the Bubonic Plague over the years. That point does rather take the edge of the story with further reading revealing that the Bubonic Plague can now be treated with antibiotics. So there is really no story here. Nonetheless the China Daily has warned that,

At present, there is a risk of a human plague epidemic spreading in this city. The public should improve its self-protection awareness and ability, and report abnormal health conditions promptly,” said the local health authority . . .

In my opinion, this second story has been released by the CCP with exactly the same reason that the research paper was allowed to be published. China is manoeuvring to position itself or to represent itself as being a responsible world citizen in acting quickly when viruses or bacteria with pandemic potential are identified. Why would China be trying to position itself in this way? Well, there has been little if any reporting on this independent inquiry into the origins and spread of Covid-19 since the resolution to conduct the inquiry was passed by the United Nations General Assembly was passed on May 19th, 2020. However, you can bet that when the inquiry gets under way China will be saying, “Hey look at how responsible we’ve been reporting the potential for a Swine Flu pandemic and letting the world know about the cases of Bubonic Plague. We’re great global citizens”.

First Published 7th July, 2020

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