COVID-19: Hotspots and opening borders

Unfortunately the business of opening international travel has been marred by the politics of the definition of ‘hotspots’.

PM Scott Morrison has announced that an agreement has been reached at National Cabinet and with New Zealand that New Zealanders can enter New South Wales and the Northern Territory without quarantine from 16 October, provided they have not come from an area designated as a Covid hotspot by the Australian Government. This announcement was made via media release from the PM and five other Commonwealth ministers.

It should be noted the New Zealand is not reciprocating. Said NZ persons upon returning to NZ would have to quarantine.

It’s more than curious that Tasmania on the same day announced that it plans to open up the low risk states which:

    include South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland, the ACT and possibly NSW.

    I want to be clear, that if at any time the situation changes in these states and the advice is that the risk is too high – then I won’t hesitate to change this decision.

    We will review the situation in New South Wales over the next week and border restrictions will remain in place for the foreseeable future with Victoria until we are satisfied that the risk has reduced to a lower level.

Also noteworthy is this from the PM’s statement:

    There are currently no COVID-19 hotspots in New Zealand. The last locally acquired case with an unidentified epidemiological source occurred on 21 August 2020. We are working closely with New Zealand authorities to ensure we are notified promptly of any outbreaks there.

So the Kiwis have achieved what Gladys Berejiklian has long said was impossible. Curiously, our aim, according to Morrison (see statement of 4 September 2020), confirmed in the statement of 18 September 2020, is no community transmission.

Now international participation by states is being made conditional on acceptance of the Commonwealth definition of ‘hotspots’, when, as I will show below, the agreed arrangement between our nation’s health officers was that identification of hotspots would be a separate matter from decisions on state border control, which were considered a state prerogative.

One of the problems here is that National Cabinet is just a forum, but is treated by the Commonwealth as a cabinet subcommittee, hence there are no publicly accessible minutes. If decisions are made that affect state law, the the states would have to change their laws under their normal parliamentary processes.

At the beginning of September there was a lot of grief and public spats about the positions being taken by Queensland and Western Australia. See:

I don’t want to rehash this part of the story, except to say that the Chief Medical Officer in Queensland was making the calls, not the Premier. There is an assumption that Annastacia Palaszczuk was acting in her own political interests. Looking at what happened one would be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that her troops were conspiring to sink her politically. In practice Queensland handled the border issue badly in terms of medical and work access and brilliantly in terms of facilitating sporting teams.

Dr Jeanette Young, the Chief Health Officer, was always clear. She wanted to see zero community transmission for 28 days in New South Wales. I take this to mean cases with an unidentified epidemiological source, or mystery cases.

After the National Cabinet meeting of 4 September Morrison said:

    The Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory agreed in-principle to develop a new plan for Australia to reopen by Christmas, including the use of the hotspot concept for travel between jurisdictions.

The hotspot concept was:

  • The Commonwealth trigger for consideration of a COVID-19 hotspot in a metropolitan area is the rolling 3 day average (average over 3 days) is 10 locally acquired cases per day. This equates to over 30 cases in 3 consecutive days.
  • The Commonwealth trigger for consideration of a COVID-19 hotspot in a rural or regional area is the rolling 3 day average (average over 3 days) is 3 locally acquired cases per day. This equates to 9 cases over 3 consecutive days.

Internationally I understand a hotspot to refer usually to a local government area. If so that is quite a lot of virus if no community transmission is your aim. Moreover, I’ve never seen a three-day average being used anywhere at all when discussing virus suppression.

Samantha Maiden’s article (I rate her as a journalist) Coronavirus Australia: Magic ‘hotspot’ numbers to reopen borders revealed provides more information, including from the discussion document:

    “In metropolitan areas, triggers are not specifically limited geographically as 10 cases per day across six suburbs may be more indicative of community transmission than 10 cases per day within one local government area (LGA) because of a specific cluster,” the document states.

Not sure what that means, but Morrison specifically said this:

    The Commonwealth will work with seven states and territories to refine the definition of COVID-19 hotspots. Officials have been asked to continue the development of the final definition and protocols for its application. (Emphasis added)

At that stage Morrison seemed to be relaxed about WA going its own way.

From media reports I also thought Queensland remained recalcitrant, so in researching this post was astonished to find an article of 16 September by Lydia Lynch in the brisbane timesAustralia’s chief health officers back Queensland border trigger:

    Australia’s state and territory chief health officers have backed Queensland’s strict trigger for reversing hotspot declarations, which stop people from those areas travelling to the state without a special exemption.

    In a letter sent to some state premiers and chief ministers, seen by Brisbane Times, the nation’s health panel has outlined its draft definition for a COVID-19 hotspot ahead of the national cabinet meeting on Friday.

    The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, a panel made up of all state and territory chief health officers and chaired by the national Chief Medical Officer, will have the power to declare hotspots.

    The panel has set out three proposed definitions for COVID-free, controlled and community transmission zones.

    A COVID-free zone would be an “area that has no locally acquired cases that pose a risk to the community in the previous 28 days”.

    A controlled zone is an area with locally acquired cases in the previous 28 days, but where authorities have been able to trace how someone contracted the virus.

    A community transmission zone, known as a hotspot, will be determined by the AHPPC rather than individual states.

    “It is an area where the disease is spreading in the community and cases are acquired locally but the source of infection for a proportion of cases in the previous 28 days is not clear.”

    The committee made it clear that its declaration of a hotspot would not “trigger or preclude specific actions for state and territories to take”.

Hallelujah, all the medicos agree!

On the same day, Thursday 16 September, an article appeared by Dana McCauley and Kate Aubusson in the SMH and presumably The AgeNew hotspot definition aims to carve a path for border opening acknowledging input from Lydia Lynch, who is from the same stable of newspapers. One point of note:

    A COVID-community transmission zone – akin to a hotspot- would be defined as an area where the virus was spreading, cases were locally acquired from an unknown source and “a proportion” of locally acquired cases had no known source in the previous 28 days.

    “The risk of exportation of disease by individuals in this zone who travel to other areas is high,” the draft statement said.

In other words, beyond clusters or hotspots it acknowledges possible transmission paths.

Then there was also this:

    Mr Morrison said on Thursday morning he was “not expecting a lot of progress” on the issue by Friday, saying the Commonwealth hot spot definition drawn up by the federal health department was “a sensible definition.”

    The Commonwealth defines a hotspot as more than 30 locally acquired cases over three consecutive days in metropolitan areas, a figure that would mean Queensland’s border would open to NSW.

    “If other states want to have more extreme definitions than that, that’s up to them,” the Prime Minister told Nine’s Today show.

Andrew Ellinghausen’s photo shows Morrison is not for turning:

He will have none of these silly ideas that let Queensland off the hook. This was about the time Morrison and his deputy Michael McCormack started bullying states about increasing the quota of Australians returning overseas.

So the National Cabinet meeting was held on Friday 17. In Morrison’s statement of 18 September 2020 there is simply no mention of hotspots. Almost certainly hotspots were discussed*. Morrison is the only one who talks about what happens in National Cabinet. He said nothing about it to us, that’s all we know.

In the statement about opening to New Zealand Morrison says the Australian Government defined hotspot has been “announced already” and:

    Any state or territory that imposes travel restrictions consistent with the Australian Government-defined hotspot, as advised by the acting Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, will be able to participate in the Safe Travel Zone.

Except that I can’t find the statement or an announcement based on a national decision, not in Morrison’s media statements, nor the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) site. However, there is indeed a hotspot statement on the Commonwealth Health Department site – Listing areas of COVID-19 local transmission as hotspots for the purpose of provision of Commonwealth support from the Acting Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly on 4 September. The purpose was:

    identifying an area requiring Commonwealth support such as such as deployment from the National Medical Stockpile, deployment of medical teams and additional support funding.

That was the one that was going to be used as a basis for discussion with the states. It acknowledges that the states would have a very different approach to hotspots, including “where there is an individual case where the extent of community transmission is not fully understood.”

When a single case is in a facility conducive to spread, for example, a hospital, aged care home, jail, abattoir or the Crossroads Hotel it is a different matter than an isolate in the suburbs. So numerical definitions are indicative, but no more than that.

Phillip Coorey did cite a federal source as saying the AHPPC had been politicised.

What we have is a hotspot statement that is fit for purpose for distributing Commonwealth assistance now being used as a condition relating to border control, where it is not fit for purpose.

My initial motivation in writing this post was to share a couple of articles, first one written by Professor Sharon Lewin of the Doherty Institute and Scientia Professor John Kaldor of the Kirby Institute – Hotspot plan can make us one country again published in the AFR on 20 September, also available here.

On the one hand they point to:

    Harvard University produces a colour-coded risk-assessment map for domestic travellers, giving daily case counts of COVID-19 down to the level of counties (analogous to our local government areas): red for no-go zones/hotspots, progressing to “good to go”/green – which represents one case per 100,000 population. To put this in perspective, that “safe” green figure is double the rate of infection in Melbourne.

They contrast this with Hong Kong and Singapore who use a much more fine-grained approach that goes down to the level of a residential building as a hotspot. They say we need something in between.

Other points they make include that we can only tell that the virus is there if we test. This is no longer true, as we now seem to have extensive sewerage testing. A few days ago Queensland authorities nominated four places showing virus, all accounted for by people returning from overseas.

I’ve lost the link, but this image from the Doherty Institute shows Victorian virus clusters linked by genetics and contact tracing from January 25 to April 29:

In a big city, (Melbourne has over 4.9 million people) the virus spreads easily. When Queensland experienced an outbreak at the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre at Wacol, near Ipswich just west of Brisbane, the virus spread quickly to a training centre and to Ipswich Hospital. Then positive tests came from Paradise Waters on the Gold Coast, Toowoomba and Russell Island in Moreton Bay via workers who were travelling more than hour each way to work.

Restrictions included use of masks by aged care centre workers, and the denial of visitors. Because Toowoomba is a provincial centre, providing services to the west, authorities tried to ring-fence the virus by extending restrictions to the Western Downs shire, where there had been no cases. My sister is in an aged care facility in Miles, near the western edge of that area. Then I heard that one of the staff at the Miles facility comes 359km on a weekly basis from Jimboomba, south of Brisbane, and quite close to Lowood where those two young women brought the virus from Melbourne.

Virus suppression is better managed by people who understand local factors transmission paths rather than someone in Canberra declaring hotspots.

Finally, Nathan Grills and Antony Blakely address the issue of opening to the world in How to reopen Australia’s international borders in the AFR. They point out that there is a difference between an ‘elimination’ strategy and an ‘aggressive suppression’ strategy. The latter accepts more risk, and will loosen restrictions earlier, relying more on contact tracing and testing to mop up cases.

Australia is an outward facing country, where two large industries, tourism and tertiary education depend on the large-scale entry of people. They could have added fruit and vegetable harvesting.

It is simply not possible to quarantine 125,000 students.

    Cutting to the chase, an aggressive suppression strategy is likely more tolerant of international arrivals without strict quarantine – especially if they are coming from countries with low community transmission, and the risk of virus importation can be mitigated.

They suggest our country needs a plan along the lines of the following, put forward for discussion purposes:

    Countries could be divided into three zones depending on the average new infections over the preceding month:

    Red zone (US, India, UK): Daily cases over 20 per million. Current quarantine or, subject to risk modelling, a pre-departure negative test, negative rapid test on arrival, health declaration, 10 days’ enforced quarantine with negative test on day 10, masks after quarantine, immediate testing if symptoms.

    Orange zone (Japan, Singapore): Active cases between two and 20 per million. Inward travel allowed with a pre-departure negative test, negative test on arrival, health declaration, seven days’ home or self-isolation, negative test on day seven, masks, testing if symptoms.

    Green zone (Taiwan, China, NZ): Daily cases less than two per million. Negative test on arrival, health declaration, advise caution, masks for 14 days, testing if symptoms.

    This makes sense for states or territories aiming for daily cases of fewer than one per million (or about five to 10 cases a day in Victoria), as these measures ensure in-bound travellers have a similar infection risk when they mix in the community.

    And any residual risk is dealt with through surveillance and contact tracing, as it is for Australian residents.

Emerging rapid tests, and the use of phone apps to verify self-isolation will help.

The question is whether our current leadership is interested in formulating a plan in discussion with, and acceptable to the state health authorities, who have to do the testing and contact tracing work.

The Labor government in Queensland has extended the official health emergency to the end of the year. It appears that the powers currently used by the Chief Health Officer depend on the declaration of a health emergency, which would be normally declared on advice from the Chief Health Officer. Queensland is about to enter caretaker mode ahead of an election on 31 October, which Labor has about a snowflakes chance in Hades of winning in my opinion. LNP leader Deb Frecklington will receive the keys of office with virus suppression in good shape.

The Queensland criterion of two incubation periods of no mystery community transmission seems to me an appropriate aim and key performance indicator if you are serious in your aim of aggressive suppression and no community transmission. The Lowood outbreak came after I think 18 community virus free days. We are approaching that again now, and life feels not so bad in the sunshine state. It really feels good to get the joint cleaned up.

If Queensland can do it (along with the smaller states) then Victoria and NSW should be able to manage it also. NSW are now in their 10th day without community transmission.

However, to reboot industries requiring overseas travel we will need more flexible arrangements involving more risk.

* Update 19 October 2020: Later, when NSW Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, took to public radio to accuse Queensland of basing policy on politics, Palaszczhuk responded that the proposal on hotspots and borders agreed to by the health officers in early September was not taken to National Cabinet at the meeting of 18 September. So the hotspot definition now claimed by Federal politicians as a national standard was, as far and I can see, never considered by National Cabinet.

90 thoughts on “COVID-19: Hotspots and opening borders”

  1. Hotspot post now up, about three times longer than I’d thought it would be.

    I didn’t expect to find so much lack of leadership and bad faith on the part of our national leader. I’m a slow learner.

  2. Brian: “Unfortunately NSW has turned up three new mystery cases. If they can’t be quickly traced to existing infections the Qld 28-day clock will be reset to zero.”
    We have finally managed to spend a day with Qld son and grandson.

  3. John, I’m really pleased for you.

    I was going to write a piece as to why Qld health has handled the border issue so badly, but it’s mostly speculation. I have picked up that QHealth has a unit of 80 working on permissions. In addition they have set up a special hotline for medical access with 8 specialist staff.

    QHealth has a history of dysfunction. I believe Anna Bligh was going to blow the place up and start again. People persuaded her not to.

    Dr Jeanette Young herself apparently has a staff of 40, so she has organisational as well as medical/health responsibilities. She did have administrative experience at PA (Princess Alexander) hospital before taking the job.

    Out of all that I could speculate as to what went wrong, but it would only be speculation.

    Meanwhile I think yesterday a further five cases appeared in NSW, so they seem to have a genuine new outbreak.

  4. Brian: “Dr Jeanette Young herself apparently has a staff of 40, so she has organisational as well as medical/health responsibilities. She did have administrative experience at PA (Princess Alexander) hospital before taking the job.”
    I am willing to accept that Dr J and her organization is the right one to provide the Qld medical input re border closures. However, Qld border decision was more complex than that because the decision had a detrimental effect on health south of the border (think Lismore base hospital capacity suffered because Qld medical people who did work in Lismore base hospital) people who worked or went to school on the other side of the border etc.
    I accept that Qld may have needed to make a quick decision in response to s sudden crisis. However, people other than the health dept people should have have been involved debugging the decision made in a hurry.
    Leaving all to the health dept was just as stupid as the Vic decision to leave the setting up of quarantine hotels to their health dept.

  5. John, I think it was over 100 doctors and nurses who lived north of the border, and couldn’t get to work in Lismore. I’ve heard no reasonable explanation why that wasn’t fixed as soon as it was identified as a problem. The situation seemed to drag on for weeks.

    I agree there should be more input than health. Early on I mentioned Angela Merkel’s advisory body, where health people were a minority. There should be a time for reflection on all this down the track.

  6. Today we had an interchange that bears on the substance of this post.

    Gladys Berejiklian and Brad Hazzard, NSW Health Minister, both had a go at Annastacia Palaszczuk about her timeline on discovering the source of of the community infections. They were essentially saying she was being political and arbitrary and just making stuff up on the run.

    Palaszczuk’s response was, no, she was using protocols agreed on by a committee of the chief health officers.

    I take it from this that when the Qld proposal was agreed to by the chief health officers in preparation for the National Cabinet meeting of 18 September there was no involvement of Berejiklian and Hazzard or information about what their CHO agreed with.

    We are on fairly certain ground, I think, in saying that Palaszczuk and Berejiklian have no regard for each other.

    I still have the feeling that Berejiklian doesn’t take anything that comes from north of the border very seriously.

    I’m also thinking that Morrison didn’t take a proposal he disagreed with to national Cabinet at all.

    Whatever the truth, national governance is not working. That being the case, the greater fault lies with the bloke at the helm.

  7. Mr Eccles, very senior Victorian public servant, has resigned (because of testimony at the Hotels Quarantine inquiry).

    Meanwhile, over in NSW Premier Gladys admits she “is a very private person” while being questioned at ICAC.

    It’s time Victoria had a real ICAC.

    Mr A.


  8. Ambi: “It’s time Victoria had a real ICAC.”
    Ditto for Australia, land of sports rorts by our from NSW Prime minister.

  9. And here’s some scutlebutt from the top reaches of the NSW Liberal Party:

    Senior NSW Liberals say Gladys Berejiklian’s tenure as Premier is over after today’s explosive ICAC evidence, with Attorney-General, Mark Speakman, and Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, emerging as the leading contenders for the top job.

    The Premier, who is still giving evidence at an ICAC inquiry, is already under pressure to resign over conflicts involving her “close personal relationship” with former MP, Daryl Maguire – the man at the centre of the corruption inquiry.

    While Mr Perrottet is positioned as a natural successor to Premier Berejiklian, some senior moderates are concerned he is too conservative, describing him as an “ultra right-winger” and saying they “won’t wear it”.

    Mr Speakman is emerging as a rival contender and is said to have the support of some senior moderates, while others, like Matt Kean, are expected to support Mr Perrottet.
    – Sharri Markson in “The Oz” online

    This has come out, before the ink is even dry on the transcript of the Premier’s testimony; before she has finished giving evidence, in fact.

    The “10 minute news cycle” hard at work in NSW.

  10. *Guide to pronunciation*

    Speak, man.
    Pair – oh – tay (if in a French accent).


    Brian: clearly NSW does its best to entertain the nation, though it can lag Qld sometimes.

  11. I stuffed up in my personal life, but I won’t resign: Berejiklian

    – “The Oz” headline

  12. Ambi, you a right again.

    This is what Micheal Koziol said on Twitter:

      Gladys Berejiklian says former premier Barry O’Farrell (who famously quit over a bottle of Grange) contacted her and advised her to stay in the job

    This is what Emma Albirici said:

      On #Insiders @David_Speers makes the searing observation to @JoshFrydenberg that now is exactly the worst time to be taking $14m away from National Audit Office. When government is spending eye-wateringly enormous amounts of money “isn’t that when we need more scrutiny not less?”

    I was thinking along with John D that Gladys B was one of our better politicians. On ABC RN tonight just about everyone seems to think she will have to go, or her party will send her.

  13. More to the substance of this post, Dan Andrews was saying tonight that if Victoria can’t squeeze out the last community transition soon, they might have to open up, and just try to live with the virus, like NSW.

    If so Qld may have to do the same, and certainly will if Qld voters put the LNP in charge. CHO Dr Jeanette Young only has a brief until 31 December. I think there is about zero chance Deb Frecklington would extend it.

    Problem is, I’m not confident that our defenses can withstand the amount of infection we would then be exposed to.

  14. If Gladys departs it will have been sudden (to the public) but 2 years in the making, given that she had sacked him in 2018 and told him to leave Parlt altogether.

    Whereas in Victoria, Premier Dan seems to be “doing himself slowly”.

    Dr Nick Economou, who specialises in State politics, forresees a duumvirate running Victoria* until the 2022 election, unless the governing Party does something about it.

    Many Victorian schoolkids resumed school today; the joy and relief were palpable.

    * if and when Ministers Neville and Pakula resign.

  15. That duumvirate consisting of a Premier and a Chief Health Officer: Dan Andrews and Dr Brett Sutton.

  16. A Queensland academic this morning said they were starting to research the long-term effects of surviving COVID. They were looking at a sample of over 300 of the 1000+ cases in Qld they were going to follow.

    She said that early indications are that around 30% of people are experiencing some difficulty, such as debilitating tiredness, inability to function cognitively well enough to resume employment.

    This is important, I think, when someone in the AFR today was saying the average age of death in Australia was 85, so why stuff up the economy.

  17. Albanese was supportive of Gladys last night on Q&A. I don’t think we should be losing a competent premier unless the boyfriend was benefitting from information that Gladys should not have been giving to him.
    I also don’t think Andrews should go on the evidence I have seen so far. Even if Andrews was the one who decided to go private it is not a sacking offense on the basis of 20/20 hindsight. (Case gets stronger if he ignored advice and very strong if the basis was ideological nonsense like “private is best”.

  18. Mr Gottliebsen (op. cit.) believes the Victorian pandemic deaths amount to “the largest industrial disaster in Australian history”. He argues that the senior public servants and Ministers who remain in place are not competent.

    Three options then.
    1. ALP Caucus removes Premier Andrews? Unlikely.
    2. Commonwealth takes over quarantine services in Victoria under the Constitution. Unlikely.

    His number 3 is:

    WorkSafe chief Colin Radford has spent the last eight weeks looking at how our largest industrial accident took place. Given the amount of public evidence now on the table he should have nearly completed the task.

    He has been asked to prosecute four politicians and 16 public servants.

    On December 29 he must give an interim report where he can either say “no” or “yes”. Alternatively, he can request more time. Normally it would be reasonable to give Radford more time but Victorian businesses are being decimated because key ministers and public servants can’t manage the situation.

    A number of silks are exploring how WorkSafe executives can be prosecuted for non-action if there is a third wave and more deaths. The Supreme Court maybe involved.

    I can’t emphasise too strongly that prosecution does not mean guilt, but if top public servants and ministers were prosecuted they could be temporarily stood down.

    And that would allow a new premier to come in and request of the Commonwealth take over contact testing and quarantine.

    The Commonwealth would, of course, bring in the Australian defence forces and almost certainly top people from health departments in NSW and other states. And remember that whoever becomes premier must re-introduce detailed cabinet accountability as part of the process of government. No more experimenting with “missions”.

    – Robert Gottliebsen in “The Oz”.

    Although the Victorian health system has not been “overwhelmed” in the nightmare scenario of patients-dying-in-the-streets, etc we have had a major disaster.

    We lost about 173 dead on Black Saturday (many of those were preventable, in my view). The Press didn’t stop talking about that day and its aftermath, for at least 5 years.

    In the 2019/20 summer fire season, there were far fewer deaths in Victoria; dozens of homes and businesses burnt; the ADF evacuated Mallacoota.

    Comparisons are odious, but I think germane to forming an objective assessment.

    The “Sword of Damocles” hangs over Premier Andrews.

  19. John,…..
    or ideological nonsense like
    “I’m not having the ADF in the centre of Melb.”
    or ideological nonsense like
    *providing ‘diversity training’ to private security staff, but not training in the medical aspects of safe quarantining, PPE procedures etc.* [this one is apparently one of the absurd things that occurred….. and I mean that with the greatest respect to the

    World Champion Absurdist Street Theatre Troupes of Trendyville-on-Yarra. ]

    ……. must be off to “workshop” competence-simulation-awareness ……

  20. Ambi: “Mr Gottliebsen (op. cit.) believes the Victorian pandemic deaths amount to “the largest industrial disaster in Australian history”. He argues that the senior public servants and Ministers who remain in place are not competent.”
    Wonder what Gottliebsen thought should have been done while a plan for quarantining was prepared and the necessary training completed. He sounds like what you get from lawyers who always seem to have 20/20 hindsight. (Ditto financial journalists.)
    My take is that the investigation into who decided to use private providers has been a distraction and the people who resigned or were sacked should not of done so.
    Having said all that I think that Andrews needs to think about what roles he should be filling now and what other types of managers are needed to handle the current crisis and prepare for the third wave. (He needs to stand back more or get some good stand back people.)
    What Vic doesn’t need is expert “gotchas” distracting attention from what really needs to be done.

  21. Down here in the High Dray State, our American cousins have noticed that we can “walk and chew gum at the same time”.

    A new Premier and new Cabinet might well take up some of the very valuable suggestions that you’ve made on this blog, John.

    Every measure that reduces the spread of infections by 5 or 10% (by itself) can have a compounding, positive effect. As you have also pointed out here.

    I don’t advocate scapegoating as a substitute for good pandemic measures but if accountability is delayed then it becomes diluted, doesn’t it?

    Victorian Courts aren’t operating.
    We’ll have a backlog of criminal matters after the “Lawyer X” findings are published; convictions on very serious offences are in jeopardy because Mr Plod bent the rules [see High Court ruling]; there could well be work to be done in suits brought against aged care homes or {gasp!} Ministers and public servants.

    I don’t dismiss Mr Gottliebsen’s contribution because he made his name as a finance journalist.

    What I liked best about yesterday’s NSW ICAC hearings was the fact that every official can be answerable and examined even if she is the Premier.

    Let light be shone in dark places.
    I’m not saying Gladys is corrupt, of course.

  22. In an interview with The Spectator, World Health Organization coronavirus envoy Dr. David Nabarro said the WHO opposes the use of lockdowns, except in cases where countries’ health services have been completely overwhelmed.

    “We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” Dr. Nabarro said.

    “The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it.”

    Dr. Nabarro went on to criticize the use of lockdowns, noting the extreme economic damage they cause, particularly to the most vulnerable sectors of a given population.

    “Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer.”

    “Look what’s happening to poverty levels. It seems that we may well have a doubling of world poverty by next year. We may well have at least a doubling of child malnutrition.”

    Nabarro went on to call lockdowns and the accompanying economic damage a “ghastly global catastrophe”.

    “This is a terrible, ghastly global catastrophe, actually. And so, we really do appeal to all world leaders: stop using lockdown as your primary control method. Develop better systems for doing it.”

    Nabarro’s comments come following a wave of public support by scientists and physicians for the Great Barrington Declaration, which calls for a termination of lockdowns.

    “As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists, we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing Covid-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection,” the Declaration reads in part.

    “Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health.”

    Are the WHO trusted experts ?

  23. Are the WHO trusted experts ?

    Not according to the Trump administration.
    And I will indulge in some Jumpyesque refutation: the Spectator?? how can you possibly trust anything an extreme right wing source like that prints!!!

  24. Jumpy: ““We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” Dr. Nabarro said.
    “The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it.”
    I wouldn’t o quite as far as that. You may have noticed that I support the use of enough strategies in parallel to drive the infection rate down (N<1.0) with preference given to strategies that, unlike shutdowns, have low social and economic impacts.
    One of my criticisms of Andrews is that his second wave lockdown ran for some time before he started insisting on masks. He also seems to have been so focused so hard the day to day crisis to the point where no-one seems to be looking for additional strategies that could either speed up the recovery and/or control the wave with less need for lockdowns.
    Taiwan has been able to control the virus without any economic damage by using a number of low damage strategies in parallel and enforcing these strategies. There is no equivalent of the president taking risks, infecting others and encouraging people putting others at risk for the sake of "my right not to wear a mask."

  25. I URGE Everyone to click zoots link and click on the full interview link to see what is said and in what context ( zoot obviously didn’t in the time of finding it and dissing it.

    Obviously I’m going to rate Spectator above the Twitter shitstained Forbes crap on this one.

    The interview is a zoom type multi person affair, not a one on one gotcha embarrassment. Allow about 45 minutes to see it fully and how much of a worthless contributor zoot is.

  26. Jumpy, you seem to have a serious comprehension problem. Your skipped of the primarily primary principle word ….. “primary”. Personal protection is the most important first principle. Separation, mask protection, hand washing and minimising hand to face contact, education, and consideration for others, all things you can’t achieve in a pub. Shutdowns are for buying time to organisation, precisely as the guy said.

    But carry on reading into everything what your prejudices demand, all common sense aside. WHO, yes essential to protect us all from a full spectrum of diseases we never have to think about because they are there.

    Whereas Trump rules by impulse and tweets, the rest of the real and scientific world operates on scientific study, careful deliberation, official reports, and international cooperation, not by casual interviews such as this one.

  27. Apparently the official Trump Administration policy regarding Covid-19 is to aim for herd immunity.
    The WHO doesn’t view this with equanimity (to say the least).
    I would suggest they might even recommend lockdowns as a possible way of limiting the carnage.

  28. zoot, the MSNBC presenter did well, but she made too much IMHO of the chance of catching the virus twice and not enough of the long-term adverse effects from catching it once.

    Britain now has an infection rate three times higher than in the first wave. Apparently their scientific advice is for a short sharp lockdown of 2-3 weeks while they get their testing regime into gear.

    Boris J is messing about, closing pubs at 10pm and stuff because his party has caught the herd immunity disease.

    They are in a mess.

    The Germans and most of the rest are in a mess.

    Here NSW now has more new cases than Victoria. Greg Hunt was saying that Victoria should open up according to the “national standard”.

    What is this standard?

  29. Europe’s second wave is worse than the first. What went so wrong, and what can it learn from countries like Vietnam?
    “By contrast, several South-East Asian countries are doing exceptionally well. Over the past two weeks, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia have reported around 0-5 daily new cases on average despite dense populations.”
    “Vietnam’s total number of cases is just 1,113, which is extremely low for a population of nearly 100 million. One tactic used by health authorities has been targeted testing, where they’ve focused on high-risk individuals and on buildings and neighbourhoods where there have been confirmed cases.
    Health authorities have also implemented extensive contact tracing, and aimed to identify those at risk of exposure regardless of symptoms. The country also set up quarantine facilities for infected people and international travellers, minimising spread inside households.”
    “In Thailand, health volunteers have been visiting areas of clusters, triaging cases, sending people with symptoms to medical clinics for testing, and dispelling rumours and misinformation. They have also taught people how to properly wash their hands, emphasised the importance of masks, and dispensed hand sanitisers.
    In addition, the Thai Department of Disease Control has been contacting hospital staff from every province to ensure they know how to detect cases and how they can prevent outbreaks in the hospitals. This education, and the army of volunteers, have helped keep total number of cases to just over 3,500.
    Despite having a relatively weak medical system, Cambodia’s total case numbers are extremely low at just 283, with zero deaths. The country has conducted extensive contact tracing, utilising 2,900 health-care workers who were trained in contact tracing at the start of the year.”
    Australia seems determined not to learn from Asian countries that have got better results than us.

  30. I’m sure our Mackay correspondent will discover the Great Barrington Declaration soon, so in anticipation here’s an exhaustive takedown. Fair warning – it’s long and very detailed.

  31. Zoot: The “right wing” seems to have changed from conservative eccentrics like Menzies who supported science, the expansion of the universities and scholarship schemes to get poor kids like me to university to raving nut cases that oppose things like climate action, wearing face masks, doing things to fight the pandemic and anything mainstream scientists support.

  32. Yes, John

    There were some positive aspects to Mr Menzies governing in his heyday. (I recall hearing the announcement of the Commonwealth Govt scholarships for university undergrads, on the radio. Yes, as a teenage nerd I listened to Parliament a few times.)

    Not all conservatives politicians are complete and unmitigated disasters in all their actions.

    Why ‘eccentric’, John?
    His love of cricket, love of the monarchy, patrician airs?

    Or are you suspicious because he was Victorian?

  33. I think it wise to recognise that the right, like the left, is not monolithic. I have acquaintances who can be accurately described as Menzies Liberals.
    But the current crop of right wing loons (e.g. the Trump Republican Party) is by no measure “conservative”. They are radicals seeking to impose minority rule by whatever means they can and as such pose a huge threat to our democracy.

  34. Good points, zoot.

    “Menzies Liberals” were in some ways liberal.
    Probably why we had a few decades of referring to
    small L Liberals.

  35. Ambi: “Why ‘eccentric’, John?
    His love of cricket, love of the monarchy, patrician airs?
    Or are you suspicious because he was Victorian?”
    His Anglopyllia was a bit extreme. And his “I did but see her passing byand I will love her till I die” said to the young was a bit extreme.
    As for Victorian prime ministers I do, of course, struggle to think of a good one. Any suggestions?

  36. What a second wave looks like and where it could go without community carefulness.

    Netherlands, population 17 million, 13th Oct daily new cases 6844. Deaths haven’t gone up yet which might mean that new treatment techniques are working, or it is too early to say. The 2 week ratios go 44,000 new cases, 1144 hospitalisations, 192 ICU admissions, 150 deaths.

    Remember the Netherlands is just 2/3rds the size of Tasmania with its 17 million people so living arrangements are more condensed and person to person contact is far more frequent. But a friends business’ office is now shutdown till next march and there factory facilities are running on essential staff only.

    Its not affecting me much other than every time someone breaths on me I become hyperchondriacle and begin imagining breathing difficulties. Moving around we keep good distance but when you git in discussions the gaps close up. We have some guys up from Portugal commissioning machinery and one of them likes to come in really close.

    I have a voodoo fix that seems to work for me which is freshly squeezed orange juice. Not for drinking so much as wetting the throat, and the vitamin C. It seems to keep me from getting long term throat problems, but once an infection is established in the lungs that cough runs the full course. So I walk a narrow path and don’t socialise other than at work

  37. John, I’m not defending the Qld position, but it is surely a bit simplistic to imply that no-one from regional NSW can get into Qld. The border restrictions maps go from Richmond Valley to Broken Hill.

    The border restrictions direction says:

      A border zone resident:

      a. is permitted to enter and remain in Queensland for any reason; and

      b. must not enter Queensland if the resident had travelled in a COVID-19 hotspot outside the border zone within the 14 days prior to entering Queensland, unless permitted to enter under a ground in paragraph 11.

    How it all works out in practice, I would not know, but we heard that the police only do sample checking on the inland route.

    CHO Dr Young addressing the AMAQ said the present situation is untenable – Young’s reality check on restrictions: ‘We can’t stay as we are – this is not tenable’.

    What happens next, I don’t know, and she doesn’t either. We are in new territory.

    However, in Qld we have had no community infections for 36 days.

    In two weeks time we have an election, when if the LNP gets hold of power we’ll have a leader who called for the borders to open 64 times.

    FWIW my expectation is that if the LNP wins then in 6 months time we’ll be down the crapper, roughly where Victoria has just been.

  38. Sneaky Kiwis: 17 who got to Sydney in a bubble (whatever that might be….. some kind of dirigible? Built by Aotearoa von Zeppelin?) ….. came to Victoria without quarantining and could not be detained.

    In the “new normal”, would that be a “leaky bubble”???

  39. Yes, Brian.

    The ‘royal’…… suggested by Australia’s Chief Royalist.

    That one was laughed out of town; we didn’t take to “the royal” at all.

    But on the other hand, lots of Aussies didn’t like “dollar” either. Too American? Too ‘foreign’? etc. etc. etc.

  40. And what would a person without a complete lack of imagination suggest ?

    Inquiring non-imaginative minds would love to know.

  41. Pacific peso ?

    Bob (or for the disrespectful – nay, malicious – “the pig iron”)??





  42. “Kanga” would at least avoid having to specify what dollar we are talking about. But ROYAL might also make people smile because it is so ridiculous

  43. Haha, 100 Joeys to a Kanga.

    I like it.

    Being Australia we habitually slang substitute, I would have thought any alternative descriptor that appealed to Australians, other than Dollar, would have emerged as dominant over the last 54 years. Didn’t happen.

    Perhaps most folk don’t mind “ too American “ or “ too foreign”.

  44. One can have a very fervent Imagination and still choose a norm.
    There’s a reason that terms become norms and it’s at an individual level.

    I don’t expect you to understand those concepts zoot, carry on.

  45. That said we’re having a lot of definitions altered for political reasons rather than to express the long held definitions of most individuals.

  46. One can have a very fervent Imagination and still choose a norm.

    But choosing the norm does not require any exercise of that fervent imagination.
    (Are you sure fervent is the appropriate adjective for what you are trying to describe here? I would have thought fertile, or vivid, or maybe creative, or innovative would have been more accurate. Fervent doesn’t really seem to fit the bill. But then, I don’t have your highly refined English skills.)

  47. fervid?

    My votes go for the

    Too right!

    Meanwhile, Ms Ardern seems to be doing quite well, across the Dutch.

  48. One does not have to choose the radical over the norm even if the creative concept is their own.

    That doesn’t mean fervent imagination wasn’t present in the deliberations.

    For example, I could imagine our currency was the Fly, it takes 47 Maggots to make a Fly.
    That’s imaginative, but not likely acceptable to most folk.

  49. One does not have to choose the radical over the norm even if the creative concept is their own.

    Nobody is saying they do.
    But Menzies (or whoever) choosing dollar was disappointing, showing a complete lack of imagination.

  50. “Fly” wouldn’t fly, as they say.

    Where we used to live, a road that once was (officially) named Blowfly Road was re-named by a timid Council.

    Where was their imagination?
    Where was their fervent reverence for hallowed names inherited from illustrious forebears who undoubtedly had their resasons for bestowing the name.

    On the other hand, “Zip up your Fly” might be good advice to an untidy and careless person.

  51. Premier Andrews is taking the easing of restrictions very slowly.

    5 km travel limit extended to 25km.
    We can leave home to exercise for unlimited time (was max 2 hours).

    No Grand Final BBQs or parties next weekend. (We are exporting our footy fun to Brisbane; apologies in advance if this inconveniences or offends anyone.)


    Cheer up!
    We are still confined to our State; we’ll not darken your doors. ……

    The Victorian

  52. No.
    We are not Swedes.
    (Neither the popular vegetable nor the renowned Nordic social democrats.)
    We are somewhat to the south of you, but on the same continent.
    There are a small number of Swedish immigrants here, but Melbourne does not resemble Stockholm.

    Not Olaf the Unready

    RIP Olof Palme, shot dead as he walked home from the cinema. (Imagine that walked home.)

    No-one does informality like the Nordics and Nederlanders.

  53. Perhaps your judgement about Victoria not “going hard enough early” in our second lockdown was accurate, John D.

    I’m no epidemiologist, but Dr Tony Blakely and his co-authors are.

    They’ve published a paper in the Medical Journal of Australia today (not paywalled). A harsher set of restrictions might have choked off the virus in about 6 weeks, they think.

    Mask wearing = the key.

  54. Ambi: I suspect that the Stockholme Syndrome Jumpy is referring to is a situation where captives start to become emotionally attached to their captors. For example, some of the people trapped in Trump’s America seem to be willing to vote for him despite his efforts to kill them with the virus!!

  55. I was trying to play his googly with a straight bat, John.

    I don’t accept that I or my fellow High Drayers are being held hostage. The Andrews Govt lacks competence but I don’t believe it’s a criminal or findamentally malicious outfit.

  56. John, what could Trump have done in addition to what he did do?

    And I’m not interested in “ messaging “ or “ guidance “, the media shat on everything he said. What practical laws or dictates did he have the Constitutional power to do, he’s supposed to be some sort of authoritarian apparently ?

  57. Jumpy, Hhere are 15 things Trump could have done. The list is not exhaustive.
    First, he could have maintained the National Security Council pandemic response office;
    Second, he could have gradually restored the diminished national stockpile of PPEs over the years;
    Third, he could have followed the step-by-step pandemic playbook left to him by the prior administration;
    Fourth, he could have heeded the first warning of a pandemic by governmental agencies in early January;
    Fifth, he could have fully warned the American people about the pandemic in a national TV address in early January;
    Sixth, he could have made Dr. Anthony Fauci the leader and mouthpiece of our national response team;
    Seventh, he could have shut down the country completely for six to eight weeks early on;
    Eighth, he could have followed the CDC guidelines about opening up the state economies; they suggested that each state have 14 straight days of decreasing numbers of infection before beginning the first stage of opening the economy;
    Ninth, he could have made mass national testing and contact tracing a top priority in January;
    Tenth, he could have mandated mask-wearing and social distancing from the very beginning;
    Eleventh, he could have fully invoked the Defense Production Act in January so that the federal government could have taken the lead in manufacturing and distributing PPEs and testing kits;
    Twelfth, he could have had Dr. Fauci lead the daily televised press briefings;
    Thirteenth, CDC recommendations could have been followed closely;
    Fourteenth, he could have made sure that Congress passed an adequate economic assistance package for furloughed and unemployed citizens as well as small businesses;
    Fifteenth, the opening of schools could be based on strict infection criteria, not a political decision.
    Finally, he could have been a role model for the country in mask-wearing and social distancing.

    This list of steps is not meant to be comprehensive or exhaustive. But it does make the point that many significant interventions were available to President Trump. For whatever reasons, he decided to deny the pandemic and to resort to conspiracy theories, magical thinking, lies, misinformation, scapegoating, and gaslighting. He took the gamble that the virus would die out on its own, despite being told otherwise by all public health experts. The trouble is, Trump was gambling with American lives, and he has lost the gamble.

  58. You missed a step there, zoot. Apparently back in February the Trump administration gave a private briefing at the Hoover Institute to a bunch of Hedge Fund Executives on the severity of the coming Pandemic. Consequently they made billions of dollars preying on the uninformed middle class.

    Another thing Destructo Trump has done but should not have is abuse the WHO and withdraw its funding on the basis of unfairness on contributions. Trumps action jeopardises the nearly won fight to eradicate Polio from the world.

    The US does contribute 400 M of the WHO’s measly 2.4B budget. The reason for this is that Reagan demanded that the WHO work into the future on a fixed budget, so it now relies heavily on voluntary contributions, contributions that gives the donor the right to direct the use of the funds. The bulk of the US contributions are voluntary, a situation that suits the US as a dominator.

    Donald Trumps only contribution to the world is the creation of a new Academic Title. Donald J Trump DS. He is not the first but he is the first to so globally deserve this accolade (Dumb S**t). I’m sure he will accumulate a few more honorary letters as history counts the damage of his term in “office”.

  59. From Nine newspapers 20th October:

    Las Vegas/Washington: US President Donald Trump has blasted coronavirus expert Anthony Fauci as a “disaster” in a conference call with campaign workers and sought to reassure them he still has a pathway to win on election day despite slipping poll numbers.

    Fauci has openly complained about being cited in a Trump re-election campaign advertisement and said in an interview broadcast on Sunday night by CBS’ 60 Minutes that he was not surprised Trump himself contracted the virus.

    “Fauci is a disaster. If I listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths,” Trump said on a call with campaign workers which the campaign allowed reporters to join.

    Apparently Dr Fauci is an epidemiologist, while Mr Trump is not.

    BTW, zoot.
    It would be interesting to run through your list to assess the performance of Australian Govts (making allowances for national and institutional differences).

  60. A few more sage remarks from the Donald……

    {apologies to any squeamish readers}

    Speaking from his signature hotel in Las Vegas ahead of two rallies in Arizona, Trump said Americans were fed up with pandemic restrictions.

    “People are saying, ‘Whatever. Just leave us alone.’ They’re tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” said Trump, whose rallies include many supporters not wearing masks and standing shoulder to shoulder at odds with the guidance of Fauci and other public health experts.

    “Fauci is a nice guy. He’s been here for 500 years,” Trump added.

    Fauci, 79, is one of the most respected scientists in the US and has served under Republican and Democratic presidents. He has been director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.

    Trump suggested he had avoided firing Fauci because of the negative blowback he would receive.

    —- Nine newspapers

  61. Thanks, zoot. Apparently the virus is really taking off in some states that Trump has to win, which is activating Democrat voters.

    However, it’s sad to think that there is a real question as to whether their votes will even be counted.

  62. Brian, a story today said that early voting rates are high in Texas.

    It may turn out that a divisive candidate may motivate eligible voters to turn out.

    One theory I’ve heard is that some voters who are permitted to vote early, are doing so to make d*mn sure their votes count.

    (I still recall with fondness the sight if hundreds of voters in Timor Leste queuing very early to vote in their referendum on the independence question. Viva la democracia!!)

  63. Ambi, Bruce Shapiro said in some states no counting will take place until election day. My worry is that legal action will start right there, and after that it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen.

  64. Once again, let us give thanks for our nationwide, uniform and apparently very competent Australian Electoral Commission.

    It’s not world-leading*, but it performs for us, way ahead of one or two poorer systems we can think of.

    Ambi of the Corona Colony

    * for a more mature country, could we please drop this boasting about being “world-leading”? personally, I’d be happy to settle for plain old efficient, well-informed, middle-of-the-pack competence.

  65. yes, powerful indeed, zoot. Wasted of course on the Trumps of the world. you should be able to see why I have gone to such effort to call out the low empathy narcissists and sociopaths in government . But it takes a real monster and a pandemic to wake the world up , and even then awareness is fleeting because greed causes suppressed empathy, a condition that has steadily grown since Friedman, Reagan and the invention of greedonomics.

    Go to 7.40 in this clip to see the face of arrogance ignorance and greed. . It starts with Lindsay Graham for whom there there aren’t enough adjectives to enshroud and bury with, but Cornyn has that “old white male” leach “I’m gonna cling on here till there isn’t any blood left” look.

  66. Struth!!! , the young Turks, BilBs further left radical than I thought.
    And the ageist, racists, sexist stereotyping spouted so blasé.

    I’m thinking the narcissistic sociopath wasn’t his business partners that bankrupted him.

  67. Oh, Jumpy! You really aren’t up to speed at all.

    I am so far left that I am Right at the same time. Well rounded arguments are my speciality, because as anyone with a scientific approach knows, everything is connected.

    TYT is a pretty good source of news on US politics back stories, while being entertaining as well.

    You continue to miss represent me, Jumpy. I have never been bankrupted. I advise you to pull your head in.

  68. Struth!!! , the young Turks

    Argumentum ad hominem yet again. How predictable.
    Strangely enough, the first time I came across TYT was when Jumpy linked to them in support of some point he was making way back in the mists of time. And no, he wasn’t disagreeing with them.
    As a result I avoided them for a while, thinking they had to be equivalent to Breitbart.

  69. Apparently in Jumpy’s world “the left” encompasses anyone who criticises Trump, so here’s another far lefty (probably a communist!) answering Jumpy’s question about what else poor inadequate, helpless, impotent POTUS could have done.
    If you want to avoid the uppity black guy at the start go to 3:42.

  70. If you watch that through to the end it’s very powerful. No-one in their right mind would vote for Trump.

    Looking at the Lesley Stahl interview, Trump appears to be without makeup. Later when he is made up he looks like he has a painted botox mask over his face.


  71. After National Cabinet today Morrison gave a press conference, which I heard on NewsRadio. There is a report at The New DailyNational cabinet commits to open borders by Christmas – except WA:

      “We agreed in principle with the reopening framework for Australia by Christmas,” Mr Morrison said.

      The agreement will allow millions of Australians to travel freely between states during the holiday period.

      Mr Morrison conceded that the states and territories will make their own decisions about borders, and said he had “never disrespected that” but made it clear that premiers would need to answer to the “costs” of closing their borders.

    The a sermon about costs.

    Mostly what he said was straightforward and OK. Full of praise for the states’ effort on the virus.

    Someone asked about “hotspot” definitions.

    He said they didn’t talk about that, just the quality and strength of the states’ health department antiviral response.

    So I gather the concept of hotspot has no relevance to state borders opening. The name of the game seems to be not to have any hotspots.

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