Covid-106

Dan O'Heirity

Another Update on What is Happening With the Chinese Virus in Australia

According to my preferred data source – which is updated daily for the number of new cases and deaths with the data being reset at GMT+0 – Australia has today reported 323 new confirmed cases of the Chinese virus bringing the total number of reported cases 10,810. There have been 2 new deaths and so the death toll now stands at 113. I’ve written about what is happening in Australia over the last few days and so I’m not going to go into any more detail here suffice to say that Australia believes that it is in some kind of god almighty crisis. All that has really happened is that Australia has carried out extensive testing based on an outbreak in Melbourne, Victoria and, as a result, we have identified a few hundred cases or so of the virus across a two week period. Thus, according to real time data there are currently 2,210 active cases in Australia with additional real time data revealing that 2,031 of those active cases are in fact in Melbourne. So, basically Australia has an issue with an outbreak in one of its cities.

Which Route Should Australia Take in Trying to Manage the Chinese Virus?

I understand, intellectually at least, that the concern in Australia is that the virus will spread well beyond the city of Melbourne, perhaps reaching other parts of Victoria or, in an even worse case scenario, crossing borders so that the virus gains a hold in other States in Australia. And so it is that Australia is discussing the best way forward to manage the virus. There are three possible strategies for dealing with the virus, namely eradication, elimination or suppression. Eradication is achieved when there is a global absence of the virus, a scenario which most likely requires a vaccine. Elimination refers to the absence of the virus in a country or region and eradication can be achieved as more and more countries manage to eliminate the virus. Suppression or control of the virus is a strategy that entails reducing the number of local cases to an acceptable level with community transmission still occurring. Australia has been using the suppression strategy and since we only have around 2,000 active cases you’d have to say that Australia has done a pretty good job at suppressing the virus.

Going back to the three scenarios, eradication is apparently no longer feasible because even with a vaccine, asymptomatic carriers can pass on the virus and because the virus can still be passed from animals to humans. Achieving elimination depends in part on how one defines elimination. For example, elimination might be defined as no community transmission for a period of 12 months. However, the virus can still break out again in a country because, for example, infected travellers might enter Australia from a country that has not eliminated the virus. And so we are left with the suppression strategy which, one might argue, is really a balancing act between attempting to return to “life as normal” whilst accepting that taking this route will entail further community outbreaks. From another perspective, there is an economic driver for following the suppression strategy because it would for the opening up of businesses along with other measures to try get the economy back on its feet. The cost will be continued outbreaks of the virus along with fatalities.

There is no easy answer with respect to the strategy that a government might adopt. However, Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, has said that he does not want to see an elimination strategy in Victoria as a result of the latest Covid-19 outbreak. In other words, Scott Morrison does not want to see a hard lock down of Victoria. However, ultimately it will not be Scott Morrison who makes the call. Each state in Australia has its own premier and the premier in Victoria is Daniel Andrews. Daniel Andrews can, quite legitimately, ignore Scott Morrison’s sentiments on the matter and institute a hard lock down should he choose to do so. In fact, arguably, he has already instituted a hard lock down. The question is how much “worse” matters might get for Victoria, particularly the city of Melbourne that accounts for the vast majority of Covid-19 cases. What, for example, might Andrews do in addition to restrictions according to which we can only leave our homes for four reasons.

The General Stupidity of People Will Be the Single Biggest Factor in the Continued Spread of the Virus

There are multiple factors that impact on the spread of the virus but three factors are within the direct control of individuals – social distancing, wearing a face mask and practicing good hand hygiene. Now, you would think that it would be a simple matter to follow three basic rules in order to suppress the spread of the virus in Australia. But no. Apparently Australians are suffering from “social distancing fatigue” – a designation that must surely have been contrived by a sociologist – and as a result they are hugging and kissing and embracing as though the virus were a thing of the past. I see people of this sort when I am out exercising or when I am shopping and although I know that this thought is wrong, I do rather find myself hoping that they catch the virus. After all, these people are complete idiots and will only learn through experience which is a great teacher. Whilst we’re on the subject of stupidity, Australians are, once again, panic buying. This fact makes these people doubly stupid. They panic bought in the first stage of the virus when there was no need to do so. Then, they failed to slowly stock up on essentials over time and so they are panic buying again. Complete and utter morons.

First Published July 16th, 2020

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