Dan O'Heirity

The Covid-19 Absurdity Continues in Australia With Deaths in the Single Digits

According to ABC news, the state of Victoria has recorded 303 new cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours along with 4 new deaths. I’ve done my own check and according to a reputable data source, Australia has seen 292 new coronavirus cases today along with 4 new deaths. These latest figures compare to 14 deaths and 372 cases yesterday, August 14th, 2020. I’ve mentioned on multiple occasions that a significant number of the Covid-19 cases in Victoria are linked to aged care homes and the ABC article is useful in this respect because it gives a breakdown of Victoria’s 10 most affected aged care homes in terms of resident cases, staff cases and contact cases. If you add all the figures together for the total number of cases related to aged care homes then you get a figure of 1,196 cases linked to aged care facilities. Cases amongst residents number at 551.

According to live data, Victoria currently has 7,875 active Covid-19 cases. This means that 15% of all active cases are related to aged care facilities in one of the three ways outlined in the previous paragraph. This also means that 6.99% of current Covid-19 cases are to be found amongst patients in aged care facilities. These figures obviously represent a problem in terms of protecting vulnerable members of society form Covid-19 and yet there seems to be no answer to the problem. For example, the aged care crisis has seen residents in aged care facilities moved to hospitals but the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) president John Bonning has called for aged care patients to be kept out of hospitals because of the strain being put on the hospital system. This makes me wonder where exactly we should be putting aged care patients.

Given the mess that is Australia’s attempted management of aged care facilities, you would be forgiven for thinking that the Australian government did not have a plan in place to protect aged care residents from Covid-19. However, the prime minister Scott Morrison has vigorously denied that there was no plan in place. Morrison said that, “There was a plan, there has been a plan, and it has been updated and so we completely reject the assertion that there was not a plan because there was a plan“. Honestly I’d have to say that Morrison is sounding just a little bit defensive by using the world “plan” four times in a single sentence. Methinks he doth protest too much. Beyond the question on whether or not there was a plan to manage aged care facilities, Australia – like other countries around the world – has to be concerned with the bigger question of how to manage Covid-19 moving forwards.

One problem here is that Covid-19 is unlikely to go away without the development of a vaccine that could lead to a herd immunity. The story from ABC news succinctly points out that in the absence of a vaccine,” . . . it is possible that the ongoing pattern for COVID-19 will be more local pockets of infection, with even more cases likely during the winter months“. The question is whether Australia would continue with its reactive strategy of shutting down entire regions just because of the emergence of a Covid-19 cluster. Surely such a strategy is not viable in the longer term because, for example, Victoria – a region that has seen a move to a draconian stage 4 lockdown – is losing millions of dollars from the economy every single day and coming out of lockdown will mean trying to get the economy back on track. Achieving this aim would be severely hampered if Victoria shut down every time a Covid-19 cluster was identified.

China Continues to Find Itself at Odds With the Rest of the World

It is not difficult these days to find stories in which China finds itself pitted against any number of countries around the world. Recently new regulations came into effect in the US banning the United States government from buying goods or services from any company that uses products from five Chinese companies including Huawei, Hikvision and Dahua. This is just one of the many ways in which the US is taking aim at China’s technology sector. For example, I recently reported that Huawei will no longer produce its flagship chipset due to sanctions by the United States and whilst there is a mind-boggling backstory to the US sanctions against Chinese companies, the long and the short of it is that the United States has hurt Huawei’s business.

Looking at a completely different sector of the economy, China has been trying to do a deal with Argentina to turn Argentina into the major supplier of pork to China. The reason that China is so keen to make this deal is that African swine fever (ASF) killed millions of animals in China. However, whilst the Argentinian authorities are in favour of the deal, the Argentinian people are not so happy with the idea. One of the key reasons for their resistance is the possibility of a virus outbreak resulting from the industrial scale pig farming that would be required to meet China’s needs. According to a post that I wrote in the very early days of the pandemic, the Argentinian people are right to be worried about industrial scale animal farming as animals are packed together in confined spaces which means an increased chance of diseases being passed between animals and on to humans.

China’s attempts to control regions in the South China Sea have a long history. However, I have argued recently that we should be particularly concerned with the possibility of armed conflict between China and America in this region because Trump, who is given to rodomontade, may move beyond his blustering in order to start a localized war that might see his chances of being re-elected as US president improve. He would achieve this by exploiting “rally around the flag syndrome” to secure short term support from voters. There are signs that conflict between China and US in the South China Sea region might escalate. The US recently sent two aircraft carrier strike groups into the South China Sea and in response China has “threatened” that it may engage in live-fire missile drills east of Taiwan Island and near Guam.

The danger is, of course, that any armed conflict in the South China sea region may escalate out of control. The South China Sea situation also demonstrates, once again, China’s immaturity on the world stage. China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming tweeted that, “On Taiwan issue, anyone playing with fire will get burned“. There is just no subtlety in China’s messages to the world. Eve more so, China seems to have no international strategy beyond trying to intimidate and bully the world into doing its bidding. Any why not. China has seized control of Hong Kong and, frankly speaking, there’s really not much that the world can now do to convince China to revoke the new security law. Hong Kong has fallen. This makes me wonder whether world leaders would act if China were to take Taiwan. Trump might do something but I am doubtful about other leaders. That said, countries including Australia are aligned with the United States so they might get pulled into the foray.

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