Flat White

Like the mighty Murray, Covid public policy insanity never runs dry 

29 June 2021

4:00 AM

29 June 2021

4:00 AM

Here we go again. Let us sip once again, dear fellow citizens, from the bottomless well of public policy insanity to institute self-harming non-solutions to a non-crisis. On the last point first, look closely at this latest (24 June) infographic from the Department of Health. The scale of the crisis that has just seen states closing borders once again and the national cabinet convened for an emergency meeting? The sum total of 184 active cases (UK: 287,820), 49 hospitalisations (UK 1,486), 0 (yes, you read that right) ICU admissions (UK 259) and all of one Covid death in the whole country halfway into the year (UK 54,708). You will need better eyesight than mine to be able to read the mini-hillocks of the currently threatening rise in daily new cases. Perhaps the heavy deluge we experienced last week was the gods weeping tears of exasperation at the folly of their supreme creation.  

But fear not, the cult of masks is alive and well despite no science, the balance of studies and contra-indications of real-world data from Florida and Texas (if health experts just ignore the last two, they no longer exist). This piece was written Monday morning, so reflects the state of play then. From midnight on Sunday, even the ACT has imposed a two-week mask mandate in response to the Sydney Covid outbreak and nervous nelly South Australia has slammed its borders shut to ACT residents. I wish ‘our’ ABC would organise an hour-long session with all the state chief health officers where they could take the Covid charts quiz from Tom Woods. And we the public can grade them on their performance. If not the ABC then any of the commercial channels? But most of our journalists seem to lack the requisite intellectual curiosity, drive and integrity to pursue critical lines of inquiry even into the most draconian set of public policy measures in our nation’s history and the never-ending nightmare of stop-start lockdowns on the CHOs’ whims. Meanwhile here are two charts begging questions about the effectiveness of mask mandates in Israel and the UK. 

What about vaccines as our knights in shining armour? On balance, the portents are still promising but the danger is that heavy-handed attempts by authorities to clamp down hard on people trying to assess the balance of benefits against harms is actually adding to vaccine hesitancy. In her Australian column on 19 June, Gemma Tognini listed several seemingly fringe-dwelling anxieties among people about the vaccines.

I believe the biggest contributor to that is people’s dwindling faith in the honesty, integrity and transparency of health bureaucrats and governments. Dr Francis Christian of Saskatchewan University has been fired after an investigation by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan for voicing safety concerns about vaccinating children. New Zealand’s Medical Council recently warned that doctors who question ‘the severity of Covid’ or ‘the safety of vaccination’ may be deregistered. We know Scott Morrison is fully vaccinated yet had to self-isolate in the Lodge on returning from the G7 summit because vaccines neither confer immunity against infection nor against transmission. It’s natural for people to have concerns about getting jabbed.  

recent Danish article in EBioMedicine concludes that ‘regardless of Covid-19 severity, a robust adaptive immune response towards SARS-CoV-2 is elicited during primary infections’. This provides powerful backing for the argument that any Covid vaccination in previously infected people is totally superfluous. It will only expose them to side effects without any gain in protection.

During a US Senate hearing on 23 June, Rand Paul pointed out that vaccine hesitancy has increased because people have stopped believing that the government is telling them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. He had in mind official denials of or silence about the robust and long-lasting immunity conferred naturally from having been infected by the virus and the extremely low risk of serious illness in healthy children. Combining that with current vaccination coverage suggests the US has already reached herd immunity. Against this, reports of myocarditis in children linked to vaccination are credible enough to warrant serious investigation. Simply pooh-poohing parents’ legitimate concerns, smearing them as selfish anti-vaxxers and telling them to just get their kids jabbed erodes government credibility more than encourage vaccine take-up, Paul concluded. 

Figure 3 plots the steep ascent, peaks and two-month descent of the first and last Covid wave in the UK. The dates are chosen on the assumption that there is a 14-day period for the vaccines to take effect and results to show in the slope of the curve. Figure 4 plots the curve of the percentage of the UK population to have received both does of vaccines. For India, the Covid death per million was 2.81 on 9 May; peaked on 23 May (14 days later) at 3.04; and had come down to 1.04 one month later on 23 June. Vaccine penetration as per cent of total population, by one dose and two doses, respectively, was 9.70/2.50 on 9 May, 10.87/3.02 on 23 May, and 17.52/3.74 on 23 June.  

The Seychelles is the world’s most vaccinated country with 72% of the population having been jabbed at least once and 68% twice. Israel is not far behind with 64% and 60%. Yet on 26 June Seychelles announced an extension of restrictions on movement and gatherings as the virus rages unabated and on 24 June Israel announced a reinstatement of indoor mask mandates because of rising cases. 

We can draw three main conclusions from this comparison of the vicious recent waves of Covid cases and deaths in the four countries (India, Israel, Seychelles, UK). First, for the UK and India, vaccination was demonstrably not the main driver of the steep and rapid fall in the Covid mortality curve from 23 January and 23 May 2021, respectively. Nor also in the nearly identical steep rise and fall in the UK Covid mortality metrics in the first wave back in March–May last year. 

Second, if vaccination is indeed the silver bullet and the only silver bullet, then India remains dangerously exposed and deeply vulnerable to another devastating wave.

Third, the continuing alarmist fears expressed by Britain’s scientific advisers despite two-thirds having been jabbed at least once and half the population fully vaccinated, is, on the face of it, strongly suggestive of their lack of faith in vaccines as the silver bullet.

Which then begs the question: is there any justification for coercion, compulsion and digital vaccine certificates as a condition of entry into designated venues and events and exit from the country? Talk of variants is just a deflection. Of course, the alternative and perhaps simpler explanation is they’ve just become addicted to control and power and are openly gaslighting the people.

The disgraced UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s personal behaviour certainly indicates contempt born of disbelief in ‘The Science’ behind the very rules he imposed on the entire society. The same arrogance-cum-indifference to the brazen hypocrisy was evident in CHO Bret Sutton’s decision to exempt himself from Victoria’s travel limits to fly to Canberra for a two-day meeting despite the heartless cruelty of refusing permission to allow a community to honour Cooper Onyett, the eight-year-old Warrnambool boy who drowned on a school camp, with a funeral. 

The UK’s first and India’s last wave prove that vaccination is not necessary for sharp falls in the critical Covid metrics. Britain’s unabated anxiety about another wave shows vaccination is not sufficient safeguard against the virus. Here’s a suggestion. Why don’t we follow Singapore’s excellent example, acknowledge and accept the disease has become endemic and will keep mutating, that the higher infectiousness and transmissibility of new variants comes with the collateral benefit that they are correspondingly less lethal, and therefore health authorities and the media should stop reporting on numbers of cases and instead focus on hospitalisations, ICU admissions and deaths.  

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