Healthy Australians have been forced into various stages of lock down since 21 March: four and a half months ago.
At no stage did we ever think lock down was a sustainable measure. We were told we only had to flatten the curve. We were told the goal was to prevent overwhelming the health system and to save lives. When we flattened the curve, had less than 100 deaths in 25 million people and nearly no one in ICU, we were told we now had to have zero new cases for x number of days. Then, preceded by bureaucratic incompetence, the nevertheless inevitable second wave hit Victoria harder than the first, as predicted.
This virus is here to stay, and it always was. And we are still, by Einstein’s definition of repeating actions expecting different outcomes, insanely choosing unsustainable public responses.
The Prime Minister, state Premiers and territory Chief Ministers have all dutifully droned on and on about following the advice of politically-appointed medical experts as if they are absolved of responsibility for the consequences of decisions they subsequently make.
The restrictions have frequently been utterly absurd in their excess and and their enforcement heavy handed.
The expert medical advice has been commonly inconsistent between various chief medical officers: suggesting not a basis in evidence and science but a basis in subjective political opinions.
The Queensland chief medical officer explained there was no scientific or medical basis for shutting down schools and causing massive social burdens to families ill-equipped with time or resources for homeschooling. Never mind the human cost to children caused by months of gaps in school attendance – she believed it was important to send a strong message to the community that the virus should be taken seriously – a political decision.
Same with a military fly over on Anzac Day. No scientific basis, but a desire to send a subliminal political message to not go for a non-essential drive.
Many people believe golf is a great way to ruin a good walk, including the Victorian chief medical officer. When asked why he decided to allow walking but not golf, putting 6,900 golf course employees out of work, he didn’t point to the science, but admitted there was “some arbitrariness” in the decisions he made.
Likewise, the science revealed the latest virus to escape an embarrassingly insecure Chinese laboratory has a half life of just 90 seconds in direct sunlight with moderate temperature (21°C to 24°C) and humidity (20%). But political elites & an incurious media poured scorn on people who went to the beach in numbers or read a book by themselves on a park bench, in direct sunlight.
Why? Because “experts“.
Jane Caro pointed out some governments can weigh advice from a wide range of experts and not slavishly agree the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance of doing exactly what cherry-picked experts say when they say. I agreed, offering the inconvenient example of the science of when every human life begins. Politicians are highly capable of ignoring such actually indisputable science when it suits their careers.
Please don’t misunderstand me. It’s not long into making a case like this that the people disagreeing with me will jump to conclusions and assume two things they shouldn’t: that I dismiss experts and don’t care about people dying. Such assumptions only make a donkey out of those making them, and are not based in reality.
I highly value the experts, and it would appear I value experts more than the governments making these decisions or their so-called oppositions meekly complying at a time when critical decisions need more transparency, scrutiny and accountability then ever from our parliaments.
I also learned to read so I could be informed by all the experts and think for myself; a kind of vaccination against narratives approved and disseminated by the Ministry of Truth. It’s one of the reasons we send kids to school, or so I thought. Debating is not evidence of callousness, but concern. A government that so disdains the intelligence and character of its citizens that it cannot trust them to make good decisions, is itself not to be trusted to make good decisions, drawing its members from the same population of citizens.
With this marvelous power called literacy and numeracy, I and many others have weighed the advice of more experts, in addition to those anointed by governments to bestow advice upon their grateful subjects and reached different conclusions about the human cost of various courses of action.
Epidemiological modelling is notoriously unreliable and prone to terrifying exaggeration, yet based only on models proven to be severely flawed and not fit for purpose governments around Australia overreacted. They pointed to and were comforted only by the thought that everyone else in the world was doing the same thing. That reminds me of what my mum said about friends jumping off a cliff – don’t follow them. Our governments consulted no other experts, or if they did, paid them no regard.
Politicians insisted on referring to speculative modelling as “science” and mainstream media impotently regurgitated this facile rhetoric with religious devotion. But within a month it was obvious from hard data that the mortality rate was nowhere near as bad as at first feared. In fact, for those under 60, fit and healthy, mortality is still proven to be no worse than the seasonal flu. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews insists this virus doesn’t discriminate, yet with or without ham-fisted lock downs 19 out of 20 deaths have been over 60 years old, mostly the very old already with serious underlying conditions.
It was a mistake to quarantine the healthy and only halfheartedly quarantine the sick. Those with eyes to see could see this by mid April. Yet governments don’t like to admit they got it quite wrong and should now take a different approach. That kind of admission could cost government and precious political careers. Normally honest people were now heavily invested in counting cases and infection rates among healthy people at little to no risk instead of the actually important measurements of mortality rates and available ICU beds.
One problem with sensational daily reporting of identified “new cases” is how vastly underestimated the actual number of cases is, care of asymptomatic, untested & undiagnosed infections.
The NSW Chief Health Officer recently said tests of blood samples for antibody markers have indicated between 250,000 and 500,000 Australians may have already been infected with COVID-19.
The fatality rate from seasonal flu is typically around 0.1% in the U.S. With just 221 deaths to date, Australia’s COVID-19 fatality rate is only 0.09% at worst, maybe just 0.05% in Australia.
So, are sustained and socially-devastating government restrictions really justified? How many lives should be cavalierly risked and lost to save a thousand from the China flu?
On the balance of advice from both highly reputed medical and economic experts, the most restrictions justified by hard data and actual science was:
- Robust enforcement of a strict quarantine & monitoring for those actually infected or awaiting test results
- Physical isolation of those at high risk (over 60 years old &/or with comorbidities), cared for by people with strict PPE protocols
- Rigorous personal hygiene and physical distancing etiquette for everyone else.
Complaints about the details of these standards miss the point we’ve been isolating everyone for four and a half months, and anything less is not something to complain about unless you’re offering even less restrictions, which I would happily consider the merits of.
But I’ve been challenged on my logic in this debate with shallow emotional manipulation arguing for total lock down of healthy/asymptomatic people. For example, it is not my responsibility if the guy who takes my money at the pizza shop gets the virus from me, goes home to his wife with a respiratory condition and she dies alone on a ventilator. Why should everyone be locked down and isolated instead of just her, or even both of them? Why wasn’t he working out the back in a controlled environment & PPE instead of handling cash and interacting with the public? If her risk was so high, why wasn’t she better controlling her environment?
Instead, such arguments propose we hold an entire nation of people hostage in their homes so people with higher morbidity risk can be protected from life and all its inherent risks, as if they would have more freedom under that scenario.
I get it. No one wants to die, and no one wants to be locked down in their homes. But everyone suffering doesn’t ease anyone’s suffering. It multiplies suffering, and reduces the nation’s ability to care for those suffering long term, further multiplying suffering.
If the choice is between locking down those over 60 or everyone, those over 60 get the same result either way. But if we let the vast majority of the workforce get back to it and life as normal, except for interactions with people over 60 or otherwise at high risk, then the social safety net they need to survive lock down or infection will itself be maintained. What’s good for the health system is good for the original objectives, preventing deaths and preventing overwhelming the health system.
If I may turn a terrible accusation back on those who suggest dissent from the official dogma equates to wanting people dead, where is their concern for the deaths caused by the quarantine of millions of otherwise healthy or asymptomatic people? Why aren’t they listening to the experts?
A letter has been written and signed by dozens of the nation’s leading experts on economics, law, mental health and industry which underscores the immense human cost being wreaked by these ill-advised lock downs. It’s an experts showdown, one side against the other, and the governments have their fingers in their ears chanting “La la la la laaa,” to any contrasting advice.
Some people simplistically imagine greed and profit when they hear the word “economy”, compare that fallacy to the value of human life, and consequently ignore human tragedy of unreported proportions.
You see, there’s a shortsighted fixation on the theoretically high number of lives saved by lock downs, but myopically ignorant of the millions of lives destroyed by lock downs. If very senior lives in nursing homes are cut short maybe 3 years early, each and every one is undoubtedly a tragedy. But who is to say that other lives also reduced by 3 or more years in years to come by the significant consequences of lock down are less important? Are their premature deaths less tragic?
One of the experts giving more moderated advice on the usefulness and consequences of broad lock downs is that of Professor Paul Frijters. Professor Frijters is an international expert on Wellbeing Economics at the London School of Economics. He is in the top 1% of most cited economists, an objective academic accolade of credibility and respect by his peers.
He says economic lock downs are causing up to 70 times more life years lost than coronavirus otherwise would.
And he’s not alone.
According to one report:
United Kingdom experts have warned indirect deaths from the pandemic – due to cancer, heart attack, mental health and more – will exceed that of the virus itself.
A devastated economy doesn’t just have financial cost, it has a devastating human life cost, one being cavalierly ignored by those accusing dissenters of not having due regard for human life in their devotion to staying the course, at any cost.
And this is all in the context of telling people to take draconian & sustained erosions of natural freedom seriously for the greater good while allowing Marxist protesters to flout basic physical distancing requirements and restrictions on assembly. It has never been more obvious just how much politics is involved in imposed restrictions and how little common sense.
It is urgent governments admit they did their best but got it wrong, and start doing what we should have always been doing.
- Quarantining of sick people must be strictly enforced.
- Isolation of high risk people must be highly recommended, along with their personal responsibility to avoid unknowing transmission from healthy/asymptomatic people.
- Clusters of high risk people in venues like nursing homes must mandate the highest standards of PPE and personal/environmental sanitising.
- Everyone else must maintain basic physical distancing, hand hygiene and cough/sneeze etiquette, but otherwise be allowed natural freedoms of assembly, movement and trade/commerce.
It’s just common sense, really. Quarantine is for sick people, and people at high risk should be responsible for avoiding the general public. For everyone else with a morbidity risk if infected no higher than a bad flu year, it should be life as normal with some sensible precautions.
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Dave Pellowe is a Christian writer & commentator, founder of The Good Sauce, convener of the annual Australian Church And State Summit and host of Good Sauce's weekly The Church And State Show, also syndicated on ADH TV. Since 2016 Dave has undertaken the mission of arming Christians to influence culture through events from Perth to Auckland, videos, podcasts and articles published in multiple journals across Australia and New Zealand. [more]