It seems Australia’s success so far in reducing the impacts of COVID-19 has a lot to do with the co-ordinated efforts of the various state governments and the federal government. Comparisons to other countries with similar qualities of life demonstrate Australians are experiencing less coronavirus-related illness and death. Certainly, the standard of our health care system and dispersed population helps, but ‘stay at home’ restrictions are frustrating and annoying. However just like in the Spanish Flu pandemic at the end of World War 1, the restrictions seem to be effective. The Spanish Flu pandemic’s second and third wave also demonstrate what may happen if the restrictions are lifted too early.
Writing in the Nine Media titles, Political Editor Chris Uhlmann asks the question If a grandparent chooses a loving embrace that may kill them who are we to stop them? His argument is effectively that the longer the personal restrictions continue, the worse the world’s economy will be, which will lead to domestic violence, suicide, civil wars, totalitarian rulers and so on. Uhlmann suggests we allow freedom of movement so grandparents can hug their grandchildren (just to pull on a few heartstrings!). All well and good on the surface except that there is a time lag between the infection and the display of symptoms and in that time the grandparent has interacted with the bus driver, the supermarket checkout operator, the financial planner, friends and relations as well as the people in the coffee shop around the corner. While the grandparents statistically have a greater chance of needing hospitalisation, who’s to know if the financial planner is recovering from a major operation and has little or no immunity? Is a ‘normal’ economy worth one life (or over 50,000 and climbing while their President plays political games in the case of the USA)?
Uhlmann’s response, like the initial responses of UK PM Johnson and US President Trump, to the criticism above would likely be that should ‘normal life’ continue, only the weak should be concerned and ‘herd immunity’ will eventually reduce the virus to insignificance. Apart from there being no proof that long term ‘herd immunity’ to COVID 19 is a ‘thing’, during April Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz wrote an article in The Guardian entitled ‘Herd Immunity is a fatal strategy we should avoid at all costs’. While Uhlmann is an experienced reporter, according to The Guardian,
Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz is an epidemiologist working in chronic disease in Sydney’s west, with a particular focus on the social determinants that control our health.
Our money should be on the epidemiologist over the reporter to actually have an idea on a public health issue and its effects.
Looking at COVID-19, German Chancellor Angela Merkel (who happens to have earned a doctorate in quantum chemistry) explains the risk in this video:
Guy Rundle, writing in Crikey (paywalled) suggests:
The position supporting lockdown is this (it is necessary to repeat it, since none of it appears in right-wing articles): COVID-19 appears to have a basic reproduction rate (R0) of around two, which means that anyone with it will infect two other people under normal conditions.
That is a basic exponential rate, doubling for every step of infection spread. If that period is, say, a day, then the population of Australia could be infected from a single case in a 25-day period.
The object of lockdown and social distancing is to detach the effective reproduction rate (RE) from R0, and push RE below one, at which point the virus will eventually die out under maintained conditions (so far as I understand it).
So what is more important — health or the economy? Is it really s/he who dies with the most economic power wins here? Most of us, and hopefully even Uhlmann despite his seeming lack of concern for older members of our society, would have some concern for older friends and relatives, hoping they stay safe and well in the current environment. Concern for others demonstrates to a large extent the fallacy of Uhlmann’s argument as well as demonstrating the ultimate fallacy in a couple of conservative dictums – greed is good (a growing economy trumps all other considerations) and that human suffering is acceptable (provided it is not to those ‘near and dear’).
Just as the ALP’s Rudd and Swan did in the Global Financial Crisis, Morrison and Frydenberg have crafted a package designed to generate economic activity in the community. Despite Morrison’s initial claim that things would ‘snap back’ on the other side of the COVID-19 health pandemic, Morrison’s statements have been referencing small steps rather than a ‘big bang’ recently. It’s also worth noting that the Morrison/Frydenberg stimulus packages are far greater that the Rudd/Swan packages last decade, even allowing for inflation.
There are three issues here. First, the Coalition has been running a ‘better economic manager’ argument for the past decade, calling out the debt that Rudd and Swan incurred to create their stimulus package. The current pandemic demonstrates that the Rudd/Swan approach was in fact correct and given similar circumstances, the Coalition government not only copies the ALP but ‘supersizes’ it. In both cases, those that had been vilified for years for being on any of the government’s support payments were finally supported properly. The current stimulus measures demonstrate that there should be considerably more emphasis placed on the people in our society than big business profits in the years to come.
Second, we now have the opportunity to press the ‘Reset’ button on the way our country has operated since the 1980s. The 1980’s ‘greed is good’ mantra should be tossed in the bin to rot with the shag pile carpet, white shoes and the 6-hour business lunch. We also need to acknowledge that former ALP PM Hawke’s ‘consensus’ model of government is still relevant and effective as demonstrated by Morrison’s ‘national cabinet’.
Last – it may be well and good that there is a concerted effort to ensure a return to economic independence, a race to fast-track a drug to cure COVID-19 as well as vaccine to prevent infection in the first place – but really the effort is wasted if there is no place on earth that has an environment that supports human life in 30 years’ time. Surely the environment and support for renewable energy over fossil fuel is more important than the return of record ASX Indices, ludicrously high executive salaries and larger dividends through going back to the same old ‘rape and pillage’ mentality.
What do you think?
This article was originally published on The Political Sword
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