Is this man scary?
Actually he was not wearing a mask when he briefed the media that 9 out of 10 Victorians were not getting tested immediately when they showed symptoms. Further, 53 per cent of people did not self-isolate while awaiting results:
- Mr Andrews said the numbers had not been coming down “as we would like them to”.
He said he was “very unhappy and very sad” to report that nearly nine in 10 people did not isolate between the time they first felt sick and when they went to get a test.
“We just can’t have that any longer,” he said.
When they did get tested, more than half did not self-isolate while waiting for results.
“Fifty-three per cent of people continuing to do their shopping, continuing to go to work continuing to do all sorts of things,” he said.
It’s been a worry for a while. Back in early June we had Andrews ‘Please say yes’: Premier’s plea on COVID-19 testing. Back then he said 1000 people had refused tests when someone came knocking on their door in large-scale testing in a virus hot spot.
He only threatened compulsory testing of returning travellers who refuse COVID-19 tests. I think public sympathy would have backed him on that one. However, medical and ethical experts have warned him against legislation to force people to take a COVID-19 test. There was a line of experts saying people had the right to refuse. One had a different view:
University of NSW epidemiologist Professor Mary-Louise McLaws said the reasons people might refuse testing were vast: from lack of understanding about the dangers of the virus, privacy reasons to feeling uncomfortable about the invasiveness of a nose or throat swab test.
Professor McLaws also suspected authorities had a strong public health case to change laws and make tests mandatory given there was no vaccine in sight.
“We cooperate with roadside testing for drugs and alcohol, we don’t have a choice, it’s the law and we all comply because we have seen the damage that certain drugs or alcohol can cause through speeding and poor judgment on the roads,” she said.
“What we have to do is ask the community to seriously consider the ramifications if they are in a hotspot community and they refuse testing.”
Experts in communication are now lecturing Andrews that he must be clear, and he must be empathetic. He was certainly clear:
- “Unless we drive down the time between first illness, first sense of symptoms… unless we make that much faster than it is now, and people isolate in that intervening period, and unless we have people who get tested staying at home and isolating until they get their results, then we will not see these numbers come down.
“They will continue to go up and up.
‘The one and only thing that you can and must do when you feel sick – is to go and get tested.’
That was from the 7News report Massive number of Victorians failing to self-isolate after feeling sick, getting coronavirus test, which represented Andrews message much more clearly than the ABC article, identifying his main concern as to the cause missed by the ABC story:
- Andrews said a large proportion of people who failed to self-isolate were those in casual jobs.
“In their judgement, they’ll look at their bank balance, they’ll look at the fact that, if they don’t work the shift, they won’t get paid for the shift, they don’t have sick leave – this is a commentary on insecure work,” he said.
I heard the whole briefing live on ABC NewsRadio. He said that he would be taking up the issue of COVID sick leave for casual and temporary workers without those entitlements in National Cabinet. Meanwhile the Victorian Government was offering a $1500 payment to those workers, but only, I understand, if they are positive.
This has now been varied to give $300 to people waiting for the test, and then $1200 for post-test isolation.
For some workers there are reports that a no-show may mean they lose their job. Existing Fair Work Australia regulations allow sick leave without dismissal, and two days carer leave, which seems wholly inadequate.
A simple fix is for the federal government to pay ‘pandemic sick leave’. From Facebook, from someone one would expect to know:
- The Federal government should introduce 2 weeks paid annual leave for all 2.6m casuals paid at the rate of the minimum wage ($1500 per person for 2 weeks).
This would cost a modest $3.9 billion per annum in a $500 billion Federal Budget.
A prudent investment. Small change in terms of the true cost of lockdowns, or the legislated tax cuts, or the sums being spent to save the economy from the effects of the pandemic.
Surely this could be sorted in about 10 minutes when besties Sally McManus and Christian Porter get their heads together. It may require legislation to prevent companies from discarding workers simply because they become ill for a short time.
Beyond the above, problems have been encountered in COVID sufferers and contacts declining to co-operate with contact tracers.
The Victorian second wave presents contact tracing which is orders of magnitude greater that we have experienced in any state so far. This graph (from the AFR) illustrates the Victorian share of new cases:
NSW cases in the first wave were mainly Australians returning from overseas. The Victorian second wave is mainly local infection.
This image, from the ABC COVID monitoring site, contrasts the difference between NSW and Victoria:
I would suggest that attention needs to be paid to the style used by contact tracers, and their training. From what I’ve heard, NSW has decentralised teams, based on a decentralised health system where one would expect superior understanding of the local community.
The Victorian system is reputedly centralised, and has been supplemented by outside personnel, including call centre staff from corporations. The required skills are not the same.
No doubt there is training and orientation, but one way or another, Australia is being seriously tested in our virus response. There was some hubris, back-slapping and I suspect resultant complacency about our first wave performance, which was substantially different in kind from what European countries faced.
The move to masks was not before time:
A meta study which Raina MacIntyre was involved in published in early June, just after the WHO had renewed its policies, showed that masks might reduce the chances of infection by about 67%. Compliance in Melbourne seems good, so hopefully that should show up in the statistics from about the middle of next week.
Update: Border Runners Put State at Risk
That was a title of an article in the Courier Mail of 22 July. The following were found by authorities to be on the run, having entered Queensland from interstate or overseas:
- 387 cases where police have not been able to find someone at their nominated quarantine address
- 125 had left Queensland during the quarantine period
- 17 found at different address due to personal circumstances
- 35 found and fined for flouting the quarantine order
- 25 had given a legitimate address but have never been located and are now wanted for questioning
- 185 people cannot be found and are believed to have given false information
So what is the answer? Ankle bracelets and microchips for all, or hyping up a community communication campaign?
It seems pointless to appeal to commonsense and people’s better nature.