We have a choice

We can either be locked in our homes for weeks or we can be surveilled by the Australian Government.

That’s not a choice any Australian should ever be presented with.

Read the story: every par is frightening:

The Federal Government believes restrictions on the community could be eased in the months ahead if there’s more testing, greater surveillance of those infected by the coronavirus and much faster tracing of those they’ve had contact with.

It is developing a mobile phone app with the private sector to help monitor Australians’ daily interactions.

The ABC understands the app will be ready in a fortnight but the Government believes it would need at least 40 per cent of Australians to voluntarily sign up for it to be effective.

The app would be opt-in only and not mandatory.

If the Government reckons this can rolled out in a fortnight – they’ve been working on it for much longer. Since when is an essential question.

COVID-19 14 April 2020

COVID-19 13 April 2020

Sure looks like we’ve flattened the curve

Let’s see what the snitches are up to today

Meanwhile in the ACT:

Despite repeated warnings from ACT Policing and a frustrated Chief Minister, 400 Canberra drivers were stopped at the border over the weekend and 100 infringements were issued for traffic offences.

After speaking to officers, 46 drivers chose to turn around and head home when they understood that their travel was not essential, ACT Policing said. No fines were issued, despite one vehicle towing a caravan.

Police were called to several gathering at parks and residences, including three men working on a car in Forde. The men were cooperative and moved on without incident after officers spoke to those involved about social distancing requirements.

Trump fights back

It’s often been said Trump is a hammer. Sometimes he hits a nail. Sometimes he hits a baby.

Yesterday, he hit the media. Hard.

Hold the front page: China’s telling lies

According to The Wall Street Journal (via The Australian), ‘Beijing still misleads the world on virus‘.

Some people will be surprised (Bob Carr, maybe).

But before we get to that, let’s look at what is happening in China to suppress knowledge. According to CNN:

China has imposed restrictions on the publication of academic research on the origins of the novel coronavirus, according to a central government directive and online notices published by two Chinese universities, that have since been removed from the web.

Under the new policy, all academic papers on Covid-19 will be subject to extra vetting before being submitted for publication. Studies on the origin of the virus will receive extra scrutiny and must be approved by central government officials, according to the now-deleted posts.

A medical expert in Hong Kong who collaborated with mainland researchers to publish a clinical analysis of Covid-19 cases in an international medical journal said his work did not undergo such vetting in February.

The increased scrutiny appears to be the latest effort by the Chinese government to control the narrative on the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives and sickened 1.7 million people worldwide since it first broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December.

The truth is that viruses come from somewhere and that somewhere isn’t blamed, but if that country purposely hid the extent of the crisis and inflicted harm on other nations, then it is fair to ask what price that country should pay.

Now we get to the coverup of events at the start of the crisis, as the WSJ states very clearly:

As the world struggles to contain the coronavirus outbreak without triggering a new Great Depression, China is withholding vital information that would save lives and significantly alleviate the economic catastrophe that now threatens to immiserate hundreds of millions of people around the world.

This isn’t the old cover-up, when Communist Party bumbling and deceit allowed a local outbreak to turn into the worst global disaster in decades. The new cover-up is even more brazen. China continues to falsify vital information about the epidemic on a massive scale.

Then comes the big hit:

Using conservative figures and assumptions, a report by Derek Scissors of the American Enterprise Institute estimates 2.9 million total cases in China, rather than the total of about 82,000 Beijing reports. If Mr. Scissors is right, the number of cases that China has concealed is greater than the total number of cases reported in the rest of the world.

Read the whole thing – it opens a world of possibilities.

Meanwhile, in the lab …

The Fairfax papers tell us that vaccines aren’t being produced because of market failure.

Here’s the opening salvo:

Reliance on the private market to develop vaccines has failed, leaving us vulnerable to pandemics such as COVID-19, public health experts say.

The Age revealed on Sunday at least three SARS vaccines that may have prevented COVID-19 were cut off from funding as they were about to go into clinical trials.

Interesting. Do go on:

Vaccines are far more expensive to develop and produce than other drugs, and many of the potential customers are the global poor, making big pharma companies reluctant to invest.

Sounds bad. Is there any government involvement that could be causing this situation?

Vaccines cost between $US500 million and $US1 billion to develop, plus the cost of building a specialised manufacturing plant to make the doses.

The final study needed for a vaccine to be approved is much more expensive than a similar study for a drug because the study needs to be huge to definitively show prevention of a disease – “tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of participants”, said Professor Sullivan.

OK, so it may not actually be entirely ‘market failure’.

So what is market failure? There are a few types, but this type, as defined by the OECD, is the one we’re interested in:

in which goods or services are not supplied by markets (or are supplied in insufficient quantities). This may arise because of the nature of the product, such as goods which have zero or low marginal costs and which it is difficult to exclude people from using (called public goods; for example, a lighthouse or national defence). It may also arise because of the nature of some markets, where risk is present (called incomplete markets; for example, certain types of medical insurance).

So go back to the article:

Vaccines are far more expensive to develop and produce than other drugs, and many of the potential customers are the global poor, making big pharma companies reluctant to invest.

You could define this as a market failure. but it is more likely a government failure.

If the cost os producing the good is too high, and the likely customers can’t pay, should companies make the product?

Or, should a group like the WHO, or governments around the world, fund the project?

Check out the countries with the greatest death rates from SARS (apologies for the poor image):

That was from 2004. You reckon China could have funded some research?

But wait … before you blame the evils of the market.

That report was posted on 13 April at 4:i5 pm. The author was Liam Maddox.

Just two days earlier, at 11:30 pm on 11 April, Liam Maddox (yep, the same guy), wrote this:

A US government agency cut off funding for an Australian research lab just as it was about to test a vaccine that, with minor tweaks, might have had the potential to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

So, it wasn’t an evil company that killed the project, it was the US Government.

The project was run by Professor Nikolai Petrovsk from Flinders University

Professor Petrovsky was given funding by US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2004 to develop a vaccine for the virus SARS, a close cousin of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Both are bat coronaviruses, and they share about 79 per cent of their genetic code.

So in six years, he got closer, but no cigar. Which is a worry when you think about COVID-19.

Professor Petrovsky, who has received about $30 million from the NIH for a range of projects, said he received a commitment from the agency to fund his SARS vaccine all the way through to human trials if it were successful at each stage of testing.

His vaccine proved successful in animals and he needed just $US1.5 million to finish the project.

Maybe it would have worked, maybe not. But the reality is that his work was not a victim of the evil market forces which Maddox later claimed killed so much of the research into coronaviruses. It was a victim of government priorities.

But also university priorities.

In 2017, the VC of Flinders, Colin Stirling, earned $1.075 million.

Maybe some of that money could have kept the research going.

Or maybe some of these projects from the Australian Research Council could have been redirected. Yes, these are real:

The University of Melbourne, 2013, Discovery Project, $154,675.00

Rationality and modernity: a history of fortune telling in modern America. This project will produce the first scholarly history of commercial fortune telling in modern America, told from the point of view of customers as well as practitioners. The history of the persistence of the trade in prophecy well into the twentieth century will shed new light on the relationship of rationality and modernity in United States history.

Macquarie University, 2013, Discovery Early Career, $391,685.00

Sexing scholasticism: gender in medieval thought 1150-1520. This project explores medieval theological debates about why it was necessary that Christ was born as a man. This offers new evidence for understanding the history of gender in the Middle Ages, granting access to ideas about masculinity and femininity held by the elite ruling cultures of western Europe between 1150 and 1520.

Or how about this one?

How archaeology can transform living in space (no, not living space, ‘living in space’)

This project aims to investigate human engagement with material culture in the extreme environment of space by applying archaeological methods to the habitation design of the International Space Station. The project will use NASA data to record astronaut interactions with objects and spaces over time. It is expectes that the project will remedy deficiencies in previous psychological and engineering design research by taking a deep-time perspective on how a culture develops in a microgravity environment. The results are intended to identify how humans adapt to space technology and can be applied in the future design of long duration space missions to maximise both survival and efficiency.

The funding? $244,400.