The over the top lockdowns are increasingly ridiculous and difficult to justify and I suspect the only reason for the lethargic lifting of restrictions is because a swift retreat would highlight how disproportionate they were in the first place making governments and their experts look stupid.
Justinian and his clan live in a regional city of about 100,000 people just over an hour out of Melbourne. The town has had just 10 COVID-19 cases, no fatalities, and has not had a new case for three weeks. It would be fair to say that his home town is COVID free or at the very least is extremely low risk.
Despite this fact the town remains in lockdown and economically suppressed, sacrificed seemingly in an act of sympathy to other areas more affected (wherever they may be as they are increasingly hard to find). The absurdity of Dan Andrew’s response to the pandemic (which includes banning such dangerous activities as golf, fishing, sitting on a park bench, swimming at the beach, sitting in your car, and so on) is becoming more obvious by the day. Yesterday Chairman Dan announced that the $1.3b procurement of 4,000 ventilators will not be needed, just three weeks after having placed an order (to great media fanfare) on the basis that they were. The epidemiology models of “experts” is looking even worse than the models we rely on for climate change, which is no mean feat.
The Andrew’s stance on primary school closures is even more absurd (although he is not alone on this one). Just two children under the age of 9 in the whole of Australia have contracted the virus (no fatalities). Despite this fact and the aforementioned point that Justinian lives in a regional city that is arguably COVID free, he is nonetheless forced to home school his young children on the pretence that this is saving lives. One suspects this has a lot more to do with placating militant teachers unions who post-crisis will probably put their hand up for a pay rise being the non-supplier of an essential service. And don’t even get me started about the quality of online learning (expect a further fall in PISA rankings).
What is becoming increasingly obvious is that shutting down travel to China on February 1 has probably done almost all of the heavy lifting in terms of limiting the virus in Australia, followed by the general ban on all overseas travel. Australia is an outlier in the Western world (being the only countries with semi-reliable data) for the small number of cases and fatalities experienced to date. Why is that? It is a question neither the government nor its expert modellers nor its health officials are prepared to explain presumably because they know the answer makes them look alarmist and foolish for having so egregiously overreacted in contravention of their own COVID National Plan call for proportionality.
Notwithstanding that Australia is an island and better able to control its borders than most, the most likely reason we have fared better is because Australia was on summer holiday when all hell broke loose in Wuhan. Why does this matter? Because the flow of Chinese travel was disproportionately out of Australia during this time (as it is every year). Students returned home, business travel was subdued owing to the Christmas break and the onset of the Australian summer holiday period, and because this period also coincides with Chinese New Year celebrations (which this year started on January 25) during which the majority of Chinese plan to remain in China and hence were not planning to travel to Australia until February. The travel ban which commenced on 1 February prevented almost 200,000 Chinese entering Australia in February.
This explains why the majority of Australian cases are not linked to China but traced to travel in the United States, Europe and on cruise ships (noting that almost two thirds of infections were acquired overseas). And because travel bans (and self isolation of inbound travellers) followed next Australia was able to largely stop the virus at the border. This is more or less reflected in the bell curve of new cases. There are zero cases in February consistent with the Chinese travel ban. New cases start trickling in over the first three weeks of March as Australians returned from ski holidays in Colorado and Europe as well as from cruise ships. Because these destinations flew under the radar by our “experts” there is a big jump in new cases between March 22 and April 2. The government introduces a total travel ban on March 19 and we see a steep fall in new cases starting on April 3 and continuing through to today, consistent with an incubation period of two to three weeks (as is generally agreed by experts).
In short, Australia was arguably spared because we are an island, our summer holiday period meant reduced business and student travel, the travel ban from China was just in time (i.e. prevented 200k arrivals) and although a tad slow on Europe and US travel bans (and notwithstanding the Ruby Princess fiasco) shutting down the borders worked. Incremental gains were achieved by social distancing measures and public awareness of the importance of good hygiene at relatively low cost. However, the draconian shutting down of the rest of economy has arguably had very little if any meaningful impact but has come at a massively disproportionate cost.
For all the crap we here from politicians about evidenced based policy making consistent with the principle of proportionality the COVID-19 crisis has been played out in total opposite. The epidemiological models have proven to be duds (i.e. based on the wrong assumptions, wrong evidence) and the measures adopted by the National Cabinet have been completely disproportionate to the threat largely lacking as they are in evidence or metrics that would justify the measures and hold decision-makers to account.
We now have 1,889 active cases (the key metric), a fall of 62% from the peak of 4,935 on April 4, entire towns and regions are arguably COVID free (or very little risk), just 74 deaths (none under age 40, only 3 between 40 and 59), only 172 people currently hospitalised (out of 95k available/empty beds), and the National Cabinet (and Peoples Republic of Victoria) are still talking of lockdowns lasting weeks and months without a single metric that would define success and trigger a sensible relaxation of restrictions.
Rationality and reason are in lockdown. Alarmism and political ass covering is about the only thing that has gone viral in this pandemic.