covid-19 “What are we waiting for?”

“Are we nearly there yet” is a well known phrase from bored children on a long trip.

It is a developing theme in media coverage of the only measures that can save lives in the current pandemic. It keeps bubbling up in stories from the ABC and Nine Entertainment including The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Usually expressed in a whiny questioning tone like bored children, “Are we nearly there yet” is also being pushed by a very serious campaign from the Wall Street Journal and its local expression The Australian.

The masters of the universe are really worried about all this talk of “essential services”. Deep down they know that what they own is essential in any society, but having them as owners is not. Health workers, supermarket stackers, teachers are all suddenly noticed as essential – they have the satisfaction of doing meaningful jobs that are obviously useful to society so it is not necessary to pay them as much as is needed to “compensate” useless parasites for having empty soul destroying lives increasing their own “net worth”.

The owners and their servants are desperately keen for a “proper balance” between saving lives and preserving their asset values. That means no more avoidable deaths than are strictly necessary to to get the economy going again. After all it is hard to make money from dead workers. So they don’t actually want the hospital system to be overwhelmed. But no less avoidable deaths either. If “the economy” demands sacrificial slaughter to be appeased then it shall have it. There must be as many avoidable deaths as the hospital system can handle in order to save their assets.

The priests of ancient cultures preferred slaughter of young virgins. We live in more enlightened times. First the owners of our economy have to mobilize popular opinion. That is hard work on a “pro-death” program.

“Why are we waiting?” is a popular anthem demanding “We want attention” from a crowd forced to wait, often a crowd of school children.

Andrew Bolt is a skilled and intelligent agitator on behalf of the owners of our economy. He makes the pro-death program of the Wall Street Journal far more presentable to a popular audience.

His subeditor picked a nice variation of “Why are we waiting” for his latest piece of bullying petulance.

The entire text is included below, together with review and analysis {enclosed in braces}

WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR?

Thursday April 16, 2020 page 41

Herald Sun (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) heraldsun.com.au
http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/

Publisher: News Limited
Document Type: Bloviation

762 words

ANDREW BOLT: “Australia’s most read columnist”

“What exactly is the sign of success the Government is looking for before these stay-home laws can be eased? We deserve to know.”

THIS is extraordinary. Why won’t the Morrison Government tell us the sign it’s waiting for to release us all from home imprisonment?

Why won’t it level with us?

{The government did level with us when it warned that the restrictions needed to avoid the healthcare system being overwhelmed would need to be “sustainable” for “six months or more”. The 12 to 18 months expected before any vaccine is “six months or more” so technically they were being unusually “level”. Recently the government has started pandering to whiny journalists with ludicrous talk of being “on the cusp” etc. That gives an opening to Andrew Bolt.}

Haven’t we already achieved everything the government – and the state premiers, too – once said was the excuse for imposing on us a virtual police state?

{By “virtual police state” Bolt means businesses being shut down to reduce the number of avoidable deaths from a pandemic with no vaccine and no adequate preparations. He is not stupid. He kows what the stakes are given events in New York where the Wall Street Journal has its home. The answer to his question is that thousands have already died and are still dying in Italy, Spain, the UK and USA and the Australian government has not yet achieved everything it needs to do to avoid that here. He knows that, so he passes it off as a whiny “question” just like the usual crap from other media. But what he really means is a demand that they stop trying to avoid unnecessary deaths as fast as possible.}

Its medical advisers told us a month ago we had to stay shut in our homes because up to 150,000 Australians would die from the coronavirus.

{A month ago was March 16. That’s when the UK government was told by its advisors that current policies would result in a catastrophe similar to Italy. Doing nothing would result in say half a million avoidable deaths in the UK and over 1 million in the USA. The UK along with most European countries quickly followed advice to suddenly slam on the brakes. So did New Zealand. Australia took slightly longer but had the huge advantage of being further behind on the same trajectory.}

But just 63 of us have so far died. Even around the world the death toll is fewer than 130,000.

{How upsetting. If only the world had done as the Wall Street Journal demanded we could have appeased the economy with far more deaths! “Why are we waiting?” “All we are saying… Is give death a chance”}

The government also told us we had to be banned even from sitting alone on a park bench so that we could “flatten the curve” of infections.

{That is certainly what Italy and France did when they shut the parks. New Yorkers were ordered to “shelter in place” which certainly prohibits going out to sit on a park bench. No such order was made in Australia nor will it be needed unless we get closer to the 1000 deaths per day that New York is experiencing, as Andrew Bolt and the WSJ demand.}

But that curve is now as flat as a pancake. For days we’ve had 50 or fewer new infections. Many more people are getting better than are getting sick.

{“All we are saying… Is get more people sick”}

It also told us it had to ban elective surgery so hospitals wouldn’t run out of intensive care beds to save the masses dying from this virus.

{Andrew Bolt desperately needs a facelift because his portrait is starting to look like Dorian Gray’s}

But those 2200 ICU beds – and the many more emergency beds we’ve now added – have for many days had just 80 or so virus patients in them. Thousands of beds lie empty.

{“Why are we waiting?” “What do we want? Fill those ICU beds! When do we want it? NOW!}

If all this isn’t success, what is?

{Success will be continuing to avoid the 23% per day growth in cases that forced the government to suddenly slam on the brakes less than a month ago when we last had only 50 cases and those cases suddenly started doubling more than twice a week because restrictions had not been imposed and nothing else stops a virus that has no vaccine.}

What exactly is the sign of success the government is looking for before these stay-home laws can be eased?

{Well currently they are pandering to the whining by explaining that during the next four weeks they need to:

  1. Establish adequate testing.
  2. Develop industrial scale levels of surveillance to track each infection and isolate all contacts.
  3. Be able to respond locally to sudden outbreaks like the need to isolate 5000 people in Tasmania on just one day.

But actually I don’t think they are that stupid. They know that a lot longer than 4 weeks will be needed and that “community transmission” is still increasing, not declining, at the current levels of suppression.

My guess is the government think pandering will help keep the public on side better than simply telling the truth. That instinct is natural to politicians. But I don’t think they are looking for a “sign of success” expecting to “ease” anything. I think they are waiting to be told by the Chief Medical Officers when it is necessary to impose further restrictions.}

What is the key metric it’s looking for to ease the restrictions that have cost hundreds of thousands of Australians their jobs and their savings?

{Their usual politicians Key Performance Indicators have been suspended for the duration. Careful measurement of the volume of bellowing from a whole army of Andrew Bolts is unlikely to overide the advice of the CMOs. But they will keep pandering and that will only encourage Andrew Bolt to bellow louder.}

We deserve to know. Yet when I interviewed Health Minister Greg Hunt this week, he repeatedly refused to say what the government was waiting for.

{I don’t watch TV. The Minister ought to have said “Which part of ‘six months or more’ did you not understand?”}

Was it when we had not a single new death? Hunt would not say. Was it when we had no more infections at all? Hunt would not say. Was it when we had inflection rates this manageably low for another week? Two weeks? Hunt would not say.

{No. A week or two weeks is not “six months or more”. A month is more than four times a week and more than six months is more than 26 times a week and more than 13 times two weeks.}

What’s the big secret? Shouldn’t we all know what the government is aiming for, and debate the costs and benefits of that target?

{There is no big secret. In Wuhan the provincial Andrew Bolt’s of the police were able to briefly bully doctors in December last year to keep an imminent global pandemic secret. But everyone knows now and there is nothing Andrew Bolt could say that will change the impact of what people have seen unfolding right next to the Wall Street Journal in New York.}

Clearly, it can’t keep insisting these stay-home bans will last “six months”, given Hunt admits the death toll is much, much lower than it had thought possible.

{I won’t argue about whether Hunt is as weak as piss. But whether he pulls himself together and tells Andrew Bolt where to go or not, any government official in the developed world that ignores what its Public Health Units tell it must be done during an epidemic will be promptly replaced. Andrew Bolt would do well in Belarus, but not here.}

And what was so magical about six months?

It’s just a date plucked from a calendar, and six months of these bans would drive many Australians crazy and many more broke, as well as leave our economy devastated.

{True enough. It is possible that anti-viral drugs will improve the situation in six months, but it won’t be over until a vaccine which is not seriously expected in less than 12 months. Many Australians will be driven crazy, especially fans of Andrew Bolt. Many others will die.}

I don’t mean to criticise the government for what it has done until now. Hunt is right to boast: “The steps we’ve taken have literally saved lives and they’re making a massive difference, as difficult and as tough as they are.” Correct. All praise to Hunt and the rest of the government.

In fact, I supported the bans – and wanted more of them sooner – back when we had no idea how lethal this virus was or how fast it would spread.

Now the argument is a different one: where to go from here? Which bans actually make a difference, and which don’t?

{Yes Andrew Bolt is far more intelligent and skillful than the lunatics who denied that anything needed to be done at all. He knows that he needs to whip up resentment of minor irritations and a mood of “Why are we waiting”. The business readers of the Wall Street Journal can relate to a simple demand that their asset values be preserved. But the Herald-Sun has a working class audience many of whom live from pay check to pay check with no assets to preserve. So Andrew Bolt cannot speak as plainly as His Master’s Voice}

For instance, does Victoria’s ban on even surfing and fishing make any sense? Hunt told me we couldn’t relax because a “second wave of infections” might come, as we’ve just seen in China and Singapore.

{Ooh look, over there… surfing and fishing. There are very good reasons for rushing out dead simple rules to “stay at home” and sort out the details later. There are equally good reasons for Andrew to pretend he is just arguing about which bans actually make a difference when he is in fact demanding that more lives be sacrificed to preserve asset values.}

But what if it doesn’t? We could be waiting months and months for a second wave that may never come, and wait at an horrendous financial and human cost.

{The pretense is so transparent that Andrew Bolt actually forgets himself and becomes comical. Just imagine how awful it would be if a second wave was prepared for and never came! Fear not Andrew Bolt. There is no way to avoid repeated outbreaks when nearly 100% of the population has not been infected yet and is still Susceptible because there is no vaccine. You will get opportunities to present your demands many times over the next year or more. Every time the death rate subsides you can pop up and demand “Give death a chance”.}

Surely it makes sense to fight any second wave if and when it actually comes. We’ll be far better prepared then, and can bring back all the restrictions we like when required.

{Surely. Just like it made sense for New York to not fight the first wave until it hit them and they had a thousand deaths per day.}

Tasmania this week actually set a more realistic and affordable model for fighting a “second wave”.

It had an outbreak of infections – 78 new cases – at two hospitals in Burnie. It blitzed that outbreak at its source, closing the hospitals and putting 5000 people there in quarantine.

{Utterly brilliant! Andrew Bolt knows he has some really, really stupid fans. They will have heard that instead of being “flat as a pancake” at 50 cases per day as Andrew claims, Tasmania had to isolate 5000 people in one day and needed help from the military to do it. So simply tell them that this was a “more realistic and affordable model” and they will just remember that it was part of their hero’s argument for doing nothing instead of thinking it showed that the curve is not “flat as a pancake” like their “dear leader” says.}

This must be our future. Yes, let’s have stricter quarantining of the infectious; better isolation and support of the most vulnerable, who are overwhelmingly aged over 70; and aggressive testing and tracking down of people who might have the bug.

But let the rest of us slowly get back to work to pay the monstrous bill. Just tell us the key to start that great engine.

{Essential services are at work. That unavoidably results in community transmission, even in hospitals as seen in Tasmania. But it is unavoidable no matter how carefully peope leaving their homes to work try to avoid contact. Andrew’s problem is that the longer essential services are the focus the more obvious it becomes that the people he bellows on behalf of are in no way essential.}

What is the government waiting for, and why won’t it say?

{Good question. I think the government is too gutless to simply arrest and quarantine Andrew Bolt as a biosecurity hazard.
But watch out for the CMOs.}

BLOG WITH BOLT blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/HERALDSUN.COM.AU

5 thoughts on “covid-19 “What are we waiting for?”

  1. I’ve only had a very quick look but it looks to me that the government is being advised by “experts” who do not understand some very basic facts.

    I fear that compared to Andrew Bolt, Australia’s modeling experts at the Doherty Institute are really dangerous.

    Not malevolent, but more dangerous because they are actually believable and believed so that people relying on them are unaware that they are flying blind.

    Here is their latest:

    Estimating the case detection rate and temporal variation in transmission of COVID-19 in Australia
    Technical Report 14th April 2020

    https://www.doherty.edu.au/news-events/news/covid-19-technical-modelling-report-and-press-conference

    There is a weekly covid-19 epidemiology digest:

    https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/novel_coronavirus_2019_ncov_weekly_epidemiology_reports_australia_2020.htm

    Each jurisdiction (State or Territory) does its own contact tracing. NDSS only collates the results.

    Victoria’s daily update is here:

    https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-covid-19-daily-update

    “As of 16 April 2020, Victoria has 1301 total confirmed cases, an increase of 2 since yesterday. 39 people are in
    hospital, including 18 people in intensive care. 14 people have died. 132 cases have an unknown source of infection,
    an increase of 1 since yesterday. 1137 people have recovered. More than 73,000 Victorians have been tested.
    Up-to-date epidemiological data link to daily report last updated 2020-04-15T:13:00

    Cases by mode of acquisition:

    Travel overseas 775
    Contact with a confirmed case 385
    Acquired in Australia, unknown source 132
    Under investigation 7

    This represents quite heroic efforts at contact tracing.
    The number with “unknown source” is highlighted because it represents “community transmission”.

    That is the critical data. It represents those cases infected by an unknown local source, perhaps asymptomatic. The contacts of that unknown source cannot be traced and isolated because they are unknown.

    Consequently the effective R for this category must necessarily be higher than for the cases acquired from contact with a known case.

    Consequently the proportion of “community transmission” will necessarily increase relative to known sources.

    That is the critical fact to focus on.

    But the “Technical Report” of 14 April simply assumes that “all cases with unknown or unconfirmed source of acquisition are locally acquired”.

    It then compares “locally acquired” with arbitrary guesses as to how much less transmission there would currently be from cases acquired overseas with all new arrivals from overseas now under strictly enforced quarantine rather than “self isolation”.

    This is quite breath taking.

    The central distinction between “community transmission” and tracked local transmission from known sources has been highlighted many times and is the focus of the tracking efforts. A daily “Dashboard” is provided to the general public visually indicating the proportion of “community transmission”.

    https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/coronavirus-covid-19-current-situation-and-case-numbers

    Click to access coronavirus-covid-19-at-a-glance-coronavirus-covid-19-at-a-glance-infographic_12.pdf

    But this “Technical Report” is entirely oblivious to the critical distinction and consequently blind to the obvious fact that community transmission is likely to be growing relative to transmission from known sources and will become dominant because it has an uncontrolled effective R greater than 1.

    Perhaps I have misunderstood. I certainly hope so.

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  2. I am not back on email yet but can communicate via “Issues” tab at this github repo setup for work on Quarantine accommodation:

    https://github.com/dentarthur/next-waves

    May add links re these modeling issues issues not directly related to Quarantine accomodation there. Meanwhile am putting them in comments here.

    The full press conference re Technical Report of 14 April at Doherty Institute is here:

    Guardian coverage here:
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/16/coronavirus-the-graphs-that-show-how-australia-is-containing-the-pandemic

    Earlier Guardian article with data:
    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/datablog/ng-interactive/2020/apr/15/coronavirus-australia-numbers-how-many-new-cases-today-deaths-death-toll-covid-19-stats-graph-map-by-postcode

    Spreadsheets from earlier version of Guardian article indicates better data journalism than average. Journalists worth contacting:
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1q5gdePANXci8enuiS4oHUJxcxC13d6bjMRSicakychE/htmlview#

    There was also a link to a PM&C spreadsheet with daily updates from each jurisdiction on new cases by source of acquisition (overseas, local known source, community transmission ie unknown source, interstate or under investigation).

    Need to get access to that either via Guardian or Department PM&C. Also should ask them to add columns for exit from “under investigation” to each of the other categories to get proportion and typical lag before becomes “community transmission”.

    It should have been fairly straightforward to calculate R_eff for each category from that daily data but Doherty Technical Report simply has not done it.

    All today’s papers celebrating flattened curve confirmed by modeling and hope for eased restrictions wtihin 4 weeks!

    Latest weekly epidemiological report 11 to 12 April released 17 April here:
    https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/novel_coronavirus_2019_ncov_weekly_epidemiology_reports_australia_2020.htm

    Click to access covid_19_australia_epidemiology_report_11__reporting_week_ending_23_59_aest_12_april_2020.pdf


    https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/1D03BCB527F40C8BCA258503000302EB/$File/covid_19_australia_epidemiology_report_11__reporting_week_ending_23_59_aest_12_april_2020.docx

    Imperial College reports:
    https://www.imperial.ac.uk/mrc-global-infectious-disease-analysis/covid-19/covid-19-reports/

    Report 9 of 16 March is central. Refs 5 and 6 describe original pandemic influenza model adapted for covid-19.
    Supplement to ref 5 describes actual HPC cluster C code from 2006. They are working to release it soon.
    Report 13 of 30 March tracks 11European countres working back from deaths to infections at onset then forward to current infections and forecasts. Fairly wide 90% credible intervals mostly overlap with current data. Australia doesn’t seem to have any plausible forecasts with either wide or narrow credible intervals at all. Just raw data and sheer guesswork.

    Daily updates from report 13 and weekly forecasts here:
    https://www.imperial.ac.uk/mrc-global-infectious-disease-analysis/covid-19/covid-19-planning-tools/
    Code at public github repo open to contributors is linked from the daily updates. Lots of other countries being added in eg from Latin America. But not Australia!

    Daily government and AHPPC (CMOs) news releases:
    https://health.govcms.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/coronavirus-covid-19-news-and-media

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  3. It’s getting uglier in America, as we have these rallies calling for an end to any sort of lockdown, restrictions. The Tangerine Mussolini tweeting his support for their actions, coinciding with his ongoing push to have ‘America open for business’, further encourages/perpetuates the suffering of so much of American society. This coincides with the paucity of testing, as there are pockets of American society, in particular some of the rural areas, also those areas devastated by the devastation of manufacturing, who are particuarly vulnerable. We’ve heard a lot about New York, California, but there are pockets getting far less coverage.

    As well as’ pro-death’ advocates such as Bolt sprouting their open disdain to ordinary people’s health compared to their masters needs to accumulate, the language of his ilk whilst downplaying the human costs whilst treating markets and financial capital as living entities shows their clear intent as to who is important in their world view. Hearing talks of markets being ‘nervous’, seems more important than the loss of thousands of human lives.

    Back here whilst we’ve restricted entry from overseas reducing a major source of transmission, the cases from unknown sources manifesting itself in the community transmissions emphasises it’s a long way from the time to lift restrictions. I’ve had a brief look at Denmark, also Austria how they are lifting restrictions. I haven’t sourced enough material yet , but looking at some of the news from Denmark is a concern from many parents they’re reluctant to send their children back to school, as they don’t wish for them to be ‘guinea pigs’. I need to read more.

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  4. We’re still a long way from ‘there’, but problems associated to Coronavirus add to the challenges.

    I’ve not found any specific figures re increase in domestic violence, though it’s expected by many working in that industry. Just need to await the figures, to confirm if the ‘gut feel’ of these people is accurate.

    There’s effects of the lock down on areas like people’s access to cinemas, sporting events, tourism etc, those activities included in what Gorz called compensatory consumerism. Similar to the issue with domestic violence lots of anecdotal information re increased levels of stress, anxiety and loneliness. With the closures of gambling outlets, experts report online gambling has seen an increase by 2/3rd’s. Around half of ‘regular’ gamblers report they are betting more.

    There’s the potential for the Coronavirus to inflict devastating damage on our neighbours. How does/will Australia react ?

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-28/coronavirus-risks-indonesia-png-becoming-failed-states/12191850

    We’re a long way from the mystical ‘there’. It ‘s quite likely we will experience at least one more outbreak of this Coronavirus before an effective vaccine is available. One wonders how well resourced we are to deal with these challenges.

    Glen!

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