Dan O'Heirity

China Continues to Cover Up the Origins and Spread of the Covid-19 Virus

I’ve been wondering for a while what has been going on with the “so called” independent inquiry into the origins and spread of Covid-19. I came across a story today from “The New York Times” that provides an update along with some information that I had not come across before. First, the new information. According to their report, a team from the World Health Organization (WHO) was allowed into Beijing in early February to study the virus outbreak. However, unbeknownst to the team, the WHO leadership had negotiated terms for the visit that meant their own team could not question China’s initial response to the virus. Nor could the team visit the Wuhan market where the outbreak began. Here we are in November with a live data source showing 47,326,715 confirmed Covid-19 cases worldwide and 1,211,421 deaths and, as “The New York Times” notes, we are no nearer to an “independent investigation” into the virus that we were eleven months ago. Rather, China continues to manipulate the “independent inquiry” to its own ends. For example, documents obtained by “The New York Times” show that key parts of the inquiry will be led by Chinese scientists and WHO experts will only be allowed to “review” and “augment” the findings. So basically China is investigating itself and presenting a report to the WHO for review purposes.

There’s Dodgy Goings on in Victoria’s Management of Covid-19 Quarantine

There’s a second wave of Covid-19 in Europe with “The Guardian” reporting on the different ways in which European countries are dealing with the virus. Looking at what is happening in Europe, it would be fair to say that Covid-19 normal in 2021 is not going to look particularly normal. Meanwhile Australia has the virus under control but not without significant controversy in the state of Victoria which has been under lockdown conditions since July 8th, with restrictions only being eased to some degree in the last week or so. The controversy, as detailed by Peta Credlin in a one hour Sky News Special Report, concerns the complete bungling of the quarantining of international passengers returning to Melbourne.

This is the sort of report you really need to watch for yourself so I will just summarize the main thrust of the argument which is that the hotel quarantine was completely mismanaged by private security firms. This mismanagement directly resulted in around 18,000 new Covid-19 cases and around 800 deaths, the vast majority of those deaths occurring in aged care services. Victoria’s health minister Jenny Mikakos resigned after giving evidence to the hotel quarantine inquiry when the Victorian premier Daniel Andrews placed the blame on Mikakos and her department. However, no one, not even Dan Andrews, has taken responsibility for the debacle.

Numbers for Job Losses at Australian Universities Are Staggering

Figures for job losses at Australian universities resulting from the loss of international student revenue have been published by “Business Insider Australia” and the numbers are staggering. A note before providing a few figures. Universities in Australia employ tens of thousands of casual staff but only universities in the state of Victoria are required to make those numbers available. This means that the extent of the casual academic workforce in Australian universities is not known with any degree of exactitude. However, “Business Insider” reports that the figure is likely around 100,000 casual staff at universities. The point here is that it will never truly be known how many casual staff universities let go in the job cutting process. However, in terms of known figures, the University of New South Wales is planning nearly 500 job cuts. This will include 265 forced redundancies which equates to 7.5% of its staff. The University has also announced it will consolidate its eight faculties into six. La Trobe University has discontinued 2,518 casual positions. In addition, 240 voluntary redundancies have been made which is the equivalent of 160 full-time roles. It has been estimated that anything between 215 and 415 more positions are expected to be terminated.

Covid-19 Normal Education is Not Going to Be, Well, Normal

It probably does not need to be pointed out that universities cannot cut all these academic positions whilst continuing to teach what they were teaching before they axed the staff. Here’s why. In Australia there is an academic “Workload Allocation Model” that essentially operates to ensure that an academic’s workload is “fair and reasonable”. So you can’t cut 250 academic positions and distribute the teaching load to the remaining academics because the “Workload Allocation Model” will not allow it. This means that something else has to happen and one of those things is rationalizing courses and units. So, a university might say that any postgraduate unit with less than 20 students and any undergraduate unit with less than 40 students will no longer be taught. However, note this fact. Surely a university would need to pre-plan regarding the units that will no longer be run so that they might correlate the redundancies accordingly. In other words, on one view of things, you got sacked if it was found that you were running a unit or units with low enrolment numbers. This would be true of both casual staff and ongoing staff. The other strategy universities can take is to amalgamate the units that have the low enrolments and then to have the staff who were not axed teach those units. This would take a bit of doing but I can assure you that it will happen.

Every university in Australia, and indeed in other countries around the world, had to transition its teaching online this year. Covid-19 normal is not going to see a full return to the face to face teaching model. For example, as reported by “Western Australia Today” Murdoch University intends to “get rid of face-to-face lectures permanently by 2022, with the exception of law, vet medicine, medical, molecular and forensic sciences, and agricultural sciences, where it is impractical“. However, a backlash from staff and students has seen the university giving its academics a longer timeframe to complete the transition. University strategies here will be quite simple. A lot of teaching can actually be done online, albeit the question of quality being one that needs to be addressed. There are certain disciplines where a face to face component is absolutely required. The disciplines included in the “Western Australia Today” – law, vet medicine, medical, molecular and forensic sciences, and agricultural sciences, – are examples of such disciplines. However, we could also add the creative arts – dance, drama, film, photography – and education where students are required to go on practicums. That said, components of these courses could be taught online with students coming to campus for the practical aspects of the courses.

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