If it’s the last thing we ever do

With every passing day, it is becoming clearer and clearer that our leaders have no idea what the hell they’re doing.

None. At all.

The argument has been about flattening the curve.

You might think that this is what flattening the curve looks like:

Dept of Health. 3:00 pm, 21 April 2020.

Sure looks like it’s getting flatter. But you would be wrong.

Flattening the curve is a delicate balance which is very easy to get wrong – and when you understand what it is, you’ll realise that the vigour with which we have pursued the strategy is doomed to failure. This will go on for much longer than they are telling us because failure is the most obvious outcome.

Failure will either be:

  • An uptick in cases which makes us feel as though we’ve taken a smack to the face for no benefits.
  • We are in lockdown for months and months with no end in sight.

What will success look like? It can’t be eradicated. It can be brought into the country at any time.

So what is flattening the curve?

Flattening the curve is limiting the spread of coronavirus below the capacity of our hospitals to deal with the problem.

You can see the problem, can’t you? It means we have gone through all this pain essentially to buy time for the hospitals. Then we re-enter the world and get infected!

Yes, really.

The second part of the strategy is to develop herd immunity.

Herd immunity can occur two different ways: we get the virus and we continue with our lives (God willing) or we are vaccinated.

There is no guarantee that there will be a vaccine.

It is generally accepted that for herd immunity to occur we need a rate of infection of about 60 per cent.

That’s if you accept the long-held concept of herd immunity which is one of the key arguments behind vaccinations (that and not wanting really awful diseases that we can prevent). According to this report in the Nine papers today, it may not be that reliable:

Infectious disease expert Professor Raina MacIntyre issued the warning on Tuesday in a COVID-19 pandemic update at the University of NSW’s Kirby Institute – the first to collate data from international medical journals and universities since the disease was identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

Professor MacIntyre, who is head of the Biosecurity Research Program at the institute, spoke of the “myth of herd immunity” – exposing a population to the virus for the purposes of building up natural immunity and sacrificing the vulnerable.

“It does have a connotation of eugenics,” she said. “What you will see is a large increase in cases for little gain because probably by the time you get to about 20 to 30 per cent of the population impacted, you’ll start putting the brakes on and having more lockdowns because the health system will be too severely impacted.

“We’ll have these cycling epidemics, large proportions of absenteeism from work and see the full spectrum of disease – as has been seen in the US, the UK, Europe and China – which is that you are seeing deaths in children, infants and young people,” she said.

It’s nice to have something to look forward to.

In Australia, we aren’t pursuing the herd immunity track -we’re

How far or how much does the government take its foot off the brake to allow infection at a rate that doesn’t overwhelm the health resources and then require another lockdown?

How long before an uptick results in a media panic and demands to shut it all down again?

How common is COVID-19?

This study is a game-changer – and it shows that the TraceTogther app will not help reduce COVID-19, apart from the problems we have detailed here at The Breakdown over the past few episodes, including the fact that it is retrospective. it only tells you have been near a confirmed case (well after the event) rather than telling you in real-time that you should be cautious.

Here’s what the found in the unspellable state of Masachusets. Massachsets. Aw fork it. Here’s what they said:

Nearly one third of 200 Chelsea residents who gave a drop of blood to researchers on the street this week tested positive for antibodies linked to COVID-19, a startling indication of how widespread infections have been in the densely populated city.

Sixty-four residents who had a finger pricked in Bellingham Square on Tuesday and Wednesday had antibodies that the immune system makes to fight off the coronavirus, according to Massachusetts General Hospital physicians who ran the pilot study.

The 200 participants generally appeared healthy, but about half told the doctors they had had at least one symptom of COVID-19 in the past four weeks.

This is a sign that the self-selecting testing we are doing in Australia is generally not useful to gain an idea of how prevalent it is. Australia has conducted 439,842 tests (as at 3:00 pm yesterday) for only 1.5 per cent positive results.

How are we going to get from 1.5 per cent to herd immunity without a vaccine?

As the researcher from Masachusets (that’s pretty close) said:

“The bad news is that there’s a raging epidemic in Chelsea, and many people walking on the street don’t know that they’re carrying the virus and that they may be exposing uninfected individuals in their families.”

“On the good-news side, it suggests that Chelsea has made its way through a good part of the epidemic”

It shows the value of social distancing and we all know not to wipe our nose on our hand and then stick it in someone else’s mouth, but it also shows that maybe we have gone overboard.

At what stage do you think the Australian Government and the states will be confident enough to return our freedom?

Before you answer, consider this.

Yesterday, The Breakdown suggested that ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr hinted that we’d be living like this for years.

Yesterday the National Cabinet agreed to permit elective surgery. ACT AMA president Dr Antonio Di Dio said:

”The surgeons are ready, the anaesthetists are ready, the theatre staff are ready, the hospital infrastructure is ready,” he said.

But he warned that the relaxing of restrictions would likely be temporary as COVID-19 cases built up again in the winter.

”We’ve got a year or even a year-and-a-half of opening and shutting, opening and shutting the economy, and health is a part of that,” he said.

Say that again:

”We’ve got a year or even a year-and-a-half of opening and shutting, opening and shutting the economy, and health is a part of that.”

Ummmm … nah, mate. Ain’t happening. Take that to the bank.

Charles Mingus (b 1922)

Charles Mingus taught his cat to use and flush a toilet. The least you can do is listen to Mingus. A freaking giant in the jazz world.

He’s the big mongrel with the double bass. His mastery – and bullying on stage – is evident at 9’50”.

At The Breakdown, when the nights get stormy, ‘Ecclusiastics’ from Oh yeah turned up to 11 calms every storm.

Feature image: Photo by Hédi Benyounes on Unsplash.