The opening paragraph of James Morrow’s essay in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reads: “It’s hard to know exactly when Australia’s pandemic response crossed the line from tragedy into farce. But future historians could do worse than pinpoint the moment when Sydney’s chief health supremo told the city’s residents to stop being friendly to one another when they ventured out to buy essentials, lest they get themselves and others killed. ” Here are two more slices:
Given this level of official hysteria, an outsider might imagine that Australia is a Covid charnel house. In fact, all of Australia is recording around 150 coronavirus cases a day. The current outbreak of 2,000 or so cases total over the past month has been associated with eight deaths so far, almost all of them people over 70.
This in a nation that records, on average, about 460 deaths a day from all causes. Cancer kills nearly 50,000 Australians a year. Shark attacks killed eight in 2020.
So how did Australia become a hermit kingdom? Geography plays a large part. By mistaking their good luck for brilliance in being able to pull up the drawbridge to the world at the start of the pandemic, Australians quickly became trapped in an “elimination” mindset that is now officially referred to as Covid Zero.
Politics, too, conspired to create this outcome. Labor state premiers (the equivalent of U.S. governors) quickly learned to play Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s center-right government like a fiddle, forcing the commonwealth to bail states out for the economic wreckage created every time they locked down their cities or shut their borders.
Victoria Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton scolded the public. “Let’s not pretend that ‘marching for freedom’ will actually deliver the precious freedom that we all need and desire,” he lectured — a bit rich since he is the one responsible for delivering the precious freedom that we all need and desire but has no plan beyond a succession of never-ending lockdowns.
What astonishes me is not so much that people protested, but that our cultural betters seem genuinely clueless as to why the patience of citizens has finally run out.
Facing little option but to wait and see what happens, Morrison’s government has begun to look for ways to shift the blame – with the scientists who helped guide the zero Covid strategy coming under increasing criticism from officials.
But if this is becoming [as Fauci says] a “pandemic among the unvaccinated,” then mask mandates make little sense.
Here’s the latest from Ross Clark . A slice:
I can understand how gratifying it is to quote Professor Neil Ferguson’s words back at him – words he said just a week ago when he told Andrew Marr it was “almost inevitable” that daily covid cases would reach 100,000 a day as a result of the last stage of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown. “The real question”, he added, “is do we get to double that – or even higher?”
Almost from the moment he uttered those words, new Covid infections began to plummet. Between Sunday 18 and Sunday 25 July, they fell from 48,161 to 29,173. Naturally, this will be rocket fuel for anyone who blames Ferguson’s modelling for plunging us into weeks of lockdown last spring. Not only does it show that his modelling is, to put it kindly, not all it is cracked up to be – it also indicates that you don’t necessarily need a lockdown to provoke a sudden change in direction followed by a steep decline in covid infections.
Hospitals also make good television. Our images of Covid patients are shaped by intrepid journalists creeping into intensive care units and whispering into their microphones, like David Attenborough with his gorillas. They do dangerous things so the rest of us do not have to. But there is a reason why social scientists are suspicious of this kind of data unless it is anchored in a broader framework of comparison and contrast. Dramatic images may make us sit up and think. They may move our emotions. But they are a dangerous basis for public policy.
It is bad enough that No 10’s commitment to dumb technology is paralysing the country, and will soon divide it. Chillingly, a lucrative techno-surveillance industry is waiting in the wings to feed off the mayhem.
It has somehow slipped under the radar that the UK track and trace app functions via Google and Apple technology, which in future they may be able to monetise. If they do, they will join a boom in “snooper startups” – apps that promise to make the new normal run more smoothly, but which, in exchange, hoover up and then potentially sell on our information. While employers turn to HR apps that track which members of staff have been vaccinated, pubs have found that customers order more booze when they can skip the bar queue and use apps to order to their table.
Here’s a video of Jay Bhattacharya’s recent conversation with Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts about Covid and lockdowns.