Lessons from the COVID pandemic

The COVID pandemic was responsible for health problems including numerous deaths. In addition, it caused an enormous amount of damage to the economy and people’s lives.

So what did we learn and what would we do if we were faced with a similar pandemic?  Borders, medical strategies?  Reducing the damage AND??

47 thoughts on “Lessons from the COVID pandemic”

  1. John, the main lessons for me have been political. I guess I already knew that our PM was not so much a pathological liar, rather a person for whom the truth had no relevance.

    It brought home to me that we are in fact a federation where the national government does not understand it’s role.

    And I think we fall short if we think of ourselves as a nation.

    A nation state, perhaps, as a legal entity, with specific characteristics, but not a coherent cultural/social nation.

    I’ll come back to this, John, have to go now.

  2. Australia managed covid better than many countries. However, this doesn’t mean that we could have not have done better in terms of both reducing the damage done by the disease and the damage done by the ways the disease was treated.
    First question: How good was the managing of the disease by different levels of government and to what extent was there an element of luck in that answer?

  3. On the current crisis: Protests erupt over COVID-19 lockdown and vaccination rules in Austria, Italy, Croatia

    Tens of thousands of protesters, many from far-right groups, have marched through Vienna after the Austrian government announced a nationwide lockdown beginning on Monday to contain skyrocketing coronavirus infections.

    This is just one of a number of protests anti vax/right wing/libertarian inspired protests occurring in numerous places. including Australia>
    On a similar note: ‘Nothing’s going to stop me’: Queensland’s Health Minister says she has received death threats
    Yvette D’Ath insists she still feels safe in her ministerial role despite receiving death threats, saying she sees her role as extremely important and “I love what I do”.
    I have tended to link antivax with Mullumbimby hippies but right wing extremists seem to be taking over.

  4. John, I heard the Victorian health minister Martin Foley ripping into Morrison the other day about his support for militant protesters. It was on NewsRadio. Unfortunately they have some of the best interviews, which are not available later.

    Among the points, first, Morrison denounced threats of violence, and then subsequently said he could understand the frustrations etc, etc.

    The order is important.

    there was no denunciation at all on Morrison’s Facebook page. Only sympathy for the protesters appeared there.

    Then when in Qld Morrison said anyone should be able to have a cup of coffee in a coffee shop, whether vaccinated or not. At the time we had only four active cases in Qld. In NSW and Vic we had about that number dying from COVID every day. But the language was important. We were told it was “time to take back our lives”. How does he think people should do that? Revolution?

    For us this means we should have the same opportunities to die from COVID as those to our south, according to Morrison. He’s claiming ‘the science’ says he’s right.

    The next day Morrison stood next to Perrottet in NSW where the same mandates apply, and said nothing.

    One of the reasons we are slower with vaccination is that after NT we have more Aboriginal and TI people than any other state.

    Our provincial population is larger than either NSW or Victoria’s, in an area that is larger than both together. Vaccinating first Nations people was an urgent priority, meant to be implemented by the Commonwealth. They failed comprehensively, and now we are being chastised for not rapidly cleaning up their mess. We can see from NT what is likely to happen if we invite the virus in too early.

    More generally, a big lesson is to be learnt on how to open up. This article As Australia opens up, here’s what we can learn from the rest of the world points to a major mess being made in Europe, Singapore and elsewhere. One of the big mistakes was to not take the need for booster shots seriously enough.

    I had Astra Zeneca second shot in July. Yesterday my GP told me I would get a call-up for a booster in January as a matter of course.

    There is another issue about the Feds refusing to pay Medicare for tests mandated by Qld for people coming from hotspots.

    In principle it is Qld’s responsibility to make health orders. The Commonwealth pays Medicare.

    The Commonwealth has never made an arrangement on COVID with Qld which met Qld’s conditions unless it was a flow-on from arrangements made with other states. We are in a federation, but can’t do normal business with them.

  5. Best yet on where we are now – Prof Raina MacIntyre with Patricia Karvelas in What can Australia learn from Europe’s fourth COVID wave?

    Europe has fallen in a hole because their vaccination coverage was not high enough, they weren’t quick enough with the third dose, there was circulation via children and they dropped other measures. Austria only had 64% of the whole population, Australia is 71% and Denmark 76%.

    Vaccines by themselves are not enough until we get a better one. We need attention to indoor air circulation, still wearing masks when unsafe indoors, vaccinate the younger kids, and continue with contact tracing and testing.

    Seems Victoria has given up on contact tracing. MacIntyre says contact tracing is fundamental, and it can only end badly in Victoria.

    The notion that we can go back to life as normal is a dangerous fiction.

  6. There was a kerfuffle about Queensland requiring tests for entry from other states (ie. NSW and Victoria) when 80% of eligible people had been vaccinated and the tests costing $150 each.

    Qld set out its roadmap where we expected to get to 80% of the eligible population by 17 December.

    Qld is currently on 84.6% first jab and 73.4% fully vaccinated. We should get to 80% before 17 December, when a test will be required within the last 72 hours, but there would be no quarantine requirement.

    The story was that the Feds would not pay, and minister Greg Hunt wanted Qld to reconsider or make do with a cheaper rapid test.

    The kerfuffle has been resolved. Minister Hunt:

      “The Commonwealth and states jointly fund 50/50 tests for… people who require a test as a result of state or territory health order.”

      The Premier said the decision is a major win for common sense.

      “Minister Hunt says the charge for a PCR test was only when a certificate is required,” the Premier said.

      “Queensland made it plain weeks ago that the text message most people receive after a test is acceptable.”

      The Premier said the confusion over the PCR requirement and its cost did not originate from her government.

    I gather there is nothing unusual about Qld’s position, but the complaints I heard were from people who were wanting to duck down to NSW for a day, or were transitioning through Sydney on the way back from overseas.

    I have sympathy for the woman who rang up, said her entire family lives in NSW, it’s just she and her husband who live in Brisbane and want to join them on Christmas Day.

    She made the point that they hadn’t just retired here, they had lived here for 35 years.

    It’s shame we’ll likely miss the 90% mark by Christmas, but not by much.

  7. One of the key problems for this pandemic has been the border problem. There are several problems:
    1. State and LGA borders have generally been used as the pandemic borders. (Bit of a problem when a border goes through the center of something like the Gold coast/NSW North coast mega city.)
    2. Merging local councils has created mega LGA’s. Bit of a problem when only part of the mega LGA needs to be shut down.
    3. Lack of procedures for dealing with people who need to cross borders on a regular basis.
    4. Things like Queenslanders who have been caught in NSW for months as a result of a Qld gov border crossing shutdown on 2hrs notice. (Even more irritating given that the Qld gov allowed footballers and their camp followers across and freight drivers cross all the time.)
    Logical borders have a number of features:
    1. They are located in areas where few locals need to cross on a regular basis. (Easier to set up a system to deal with the few who do need to cross frequently.)
    2. Can be moved as we get more information. (Implies we do the homework on potential logical borders before we have a pandemic.)
    I hate to say it but I think the federal government should control pandemic borders. Not impressed by border policies being controlled by state government politics and a lack of concern re the effects of their decisions on people who live or work outside their state.

  8. John, can’t agree about state borders. Providing health services has to be more local the Australian federal government. They messed up almost everything they touched. Start with aged care.

    Ring-fencing is a standard tool in pandemic control. Sometimes the state border will be part of the ring.

    I think we went adrift when the Commonwealth Government would not accept the definition of a ‘hotspot’ devised by Qld health authorities and agreed to by the federal health advisory panel. It was meant to go to national Cabinet, but Morrison never took it there.

    The Feds then came up with a unilateral ‘hotspot’ definition of their own, but its purpose was to activate federal COVID support, which was different. The Victorians came up with a traffic light system, and the states had to find their own way.

    What the NRL did was irrelevant. They were the pathfinders other sports followed, and the country was better for it.

    All that being said, any evaluation of the response would find what happened at the borders capable of improvement, but there is no magic bullet.

  9. John, I think there should be formal evaluation and review of the Australian COVID response, perhaps of various types, from university research projects to perhaps a royal commission. We’ve had the press picking up on egregious happenings, but in most cases there was not an adequate explanation from authorities as to why they made the decisions they did.

    There were border problems everywhere, especially SA/Victoria, Victoria/NSW and Qld/NSW. The most ridiculous of all was the issue of Gold Coast/NSW. I think we need the anecdotes when the implications for life/health and commerce were serious, and we need an aggregated view of the damage done, plus some penetration of the political/bureaucratic veil as to why issues were not addressed. Then some recommendations as to structures that might be set up if we find ourselves in the same situation again.

    The arrogant, ill-informed, autocratic, offensive, politically opportunistic stupidity we have had from the feds is not the answer.

    Then there still needs to be accountability as to why 2.1 million residents were simply left to fend for themselves, while money flowed to the rest, while whole sectors were neglected or aggressively punished, like the university system, while tens of billions was handed to companies who were doing just fine.

    The review would go beyond immediate health issues, to the shadow pandemic in mental health, and the longer term effects of missed opportunities for the young growing up, and also long-COVID, which has been neglected.

    If I sat down and thought about it that would just be the beginning.

  10. There is a troubling article in the AFR today by Tom Burton Pandemic success threatened by dismantling virus surveillance system:

      Australia’s successful containment of the COVID-19 virus is being threatened by moves by states to scale back infection surveillance, according to the lead modeller for the national reopening plan, Melbourne University Professor James McCaw.

      Warning that the pandemic was not over, he said there was a need to ensure population-wide boosters to combat waning transmission protection.

      “When we had to make difficult calls on limiting numbers at funerals and access to aged care facilities, there were tears around the table,” says Prof James McCaw of the University of Melbourne.

      Dismantling the case surveillance system risks a European style outbreak says Melbourne University Professor James McCaw .

      The warning came as NSW and Victoria health authorities have been considering scaling back the collection of key case data such as the reason for testing, timing of symptoms, and quarantine status as governments move from a focus on cases to hospitalisation and acute care.

      “Some of the jurisdictions, instead of rationalising their test, trace, isolate quarantine system, are starting to dismantle it. There are signs that they are not planning to report information on cases as thoroughly,” Professor McCaw said.

      “Australia’s got one of the best surveillance programs in the world. It’s served us well. Why would we be scaling it down?

  11. Brian: Strongly agree with the need for a thorough investigation of all the items you mentioned.
    Prefer a separation of misgovernment and corruption issues and scandals from the technical stuff.
    Technical stuff includes:
    1. Reducing the medical damage including mental health.
    2. Reducing overall economic damage.
    3. Reducing the non medical damage to people.

  12. Hardly a big surprise: “COVID-19 variant described as ‘worst one yet’ emerges in South Africa, prompting UK to ban travel from six countries

    A newly identified coronavirus variant in South Africa is worrying British health officials due to its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people.
    Key points:
    The variant contains a different spike protein to the one vaccines were based on
    Scientists say its mutations could make it more infectious
    The UK has temporarily banned flights from South Africa and five other countries
    The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said the variant, called B.1.1.529, had a spike protein that was dramatically different to the original coronavirus variant the vaccines were based on.


    The variant has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong.
    The UKHSA said no cases of the variant had been detected in Britain and they were in contact with South African colleagues over their data.
    South Africa’s Health Minister, Joe Phaahlahas, said the country had seen an “exponential rise” in new infections due to the B.1.1.529 variant.

  13. My American son’s covid story:
    “Quick update, wife & 2 yr old son have both tested positive for covid in the last few days. Everyone is basically fine (yay vaccines) but it’s still a bit disconcerting, and meant our trip up to wife’s family’s place for Thanksgiving got cancelled rather abruptly. We’re quarantining at home until mid-next week.
    The detailed version is son developed a minor cold about 12 days ago (along with half his daycare class). We gave him an antigen test at that time (an at-home test kit, quick and easy but not as reliable as PCR) just to check but it was negative so we figured it was just a cold.
    Since we were planning to go up to wife’s family’s place on Sunday, nd there’s several medically vulnerable people there (eg T’s sister who has late stage cancer), we took son in to get a rapid PCR test on Saturday afternoon and somewhat to our surprise it came back positive.
    PCRs do sometimes produce false positives, particularly the rapid version, so we went to another place the next morning and got both another rapid test for son and a ‘regular’ PCR which goes through a full lab and takes 24 hours for all three of us. That rapid test came back negative, so we figured there was a good chance the first one was a dud and planned to drive up to Rach’s family on Monday knowing we’d get the results from the regular lab while we were on the road but well before we got there. Three hours into that roadtrip, we got the results
    – son and I were negative but wife was positive. At that point we figured something was definitely going on and turned around. Since son is in a clinical trial of the moderna vaccine, I let the trial people know and had a conversation with their lead doc this morning – his suspicion was that the cold that all the daycare kids were having was probably covid, son got it and was at the very end of the infection by Saturday so it still showed up Saturday afternoon but wasn’t detectable by Sunday (and he likely had a very low viral load to start with because that’s how it works with 2 year olds). Wife caught
    it from him, so wasn’t as far through the infection and so it was still detectable. I just got lucky (or also caught it earlier, was
    asymptomatic, and cleared it all without noticing). Anyway, they asked that we bring son in for yet another test (poor little bugger has had so many swabs stuffed up his nose in the last few days that he’s developing a hearty dislike of swabs and doctors), and we also got tested again. Will get the results of that round in another day or so.
    While having to cancel our trip has been disappointing, on the plus side, other than a runny nose son had no obvious symptoms. Wife had been feeling a bit run down over the past few days, but nothing out of the ordinary given ordinary things like missing some sleep although now we’re obviously thinking it could also be very mild symptoms of covid.
    Yay vaccines.
    Anyway, it’s all been a bit chaotic and confusing but we’re not actually sick and are in good cheer. We’ll let you know if anything changes, otherwise I guess we’ll be back to business as usual at the end of our quarantine period next week.”
    Son and his wife are double vaccinated and their son was in a trial which meant he may or may not be vaccinated.
    Son is a sociologist who is an associate professor in the School of Medicine at UCA Santiago. He is one of those people who know quite a lot about a lot and has lots of contacts.
    Son also said “Covid stats in LA right now are actually pretty good – testing positivity rate is under 1% without there being any drop in testing rates. Rapid tests (eg the antigen test we used when son first had a cold) are great at a population level, not so good at an individual level. The other thing that’s really great at a population level is pooled tests – eg take a swab from each kid in a class and swab a few surfaces (if there’s parents who decline permission and you don’t have mandates) then
    run a single test on the ‘pool’ of swabs. If the pool tests positive,
    close the class and res test the kids individually. Unfortunately
    despite pressure from wife and I our daycare isn’t doing that. Although we just gave them another reason to do so, since they just had to shut down the class because of our test results.
    Son basically had a snotty nose – no fever, no cough, nothing
    different from a dozen colds he’s had in the past pre- and post-covid. He’s had 4 colds in the 6 months or so since returning to daycare. wife’s symptoms are so mild and so typical of a few sleepless nights that we still can’t tell if they were/are due to covid or non-covid causes. If we hadn’t been going up to Wilton and had that external reason to get tested we probably would have been completely oblivious the whole thing had happened. Which is good for us and terrible from a public health point of view.

  14. Interesting story, John. i just checked out what Raina McIntyre said. She has always advocated for vaccinating as many as possible including kids.

    Children must be vaccinated against COVID-19

      Professor C Raina MacIntyre, Head of the Biosecurity Research Program at the Kirby Institute, and colleagues wrote that “vaccination of children must be part of our plan and our goal should be far higher than the minimal one preventing death”.

      “For economic recovery, our best bet is herd immunity, and we will never know if we can achieve it unless we try.”

    Should Australia vaccinate children against COVID-19?

      In a recent article published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), Professor MacIntyre made reference to two peer-reviewed studies around long COVID in children. One study estimated more than 7 per cent of children aged 2 to 11 years who contract SARS-CoV-2 will develop long COVID. The other study found over half of children between 6 and 16 years of age with COVID-19 had at least one symptom lasting more than four months, with 42.6 per cent suffering impairment of daily activities.

      Professor MacIntyre said, with consideration of the life expectancy of children, arguably they have the most to lose from persistence of the pandemic so they should be included in any vaccination program.

      “We have known since last year that kids aged 10 and over transmit as effectively as adults. The data are more mixed in kids under the age of 10, but Delta seems to be able to cause outbreaks in younger kids.” (Emphasis added)

    Will Australia follow Europe into a fourth COVID wave? Boosters, vaccinating kids, ventilation and masks may help us avoid it

    The third article is quite comprehensive. I worry about talk of ‘post COVID” and “returning to normal”.

    That little sucker will move into any space we leave it.

  15. Brian: Yep: “That little sucker will move into any space we leave it.” As mentioned above a new virus is already appearing in Africa and Hong Kong.
    What I notice is that people are getting pretty slack in this area because we have had so few cases. For example, many people are not using face masks when they should or wear them below the nose. I know I am feeling relaxed about the whole matter and being less likely to have my mask covering my face. (I still put a mask in my pocket when I get up and put it on under my chin for easy pull up when I am likely to get too close to people.)
    Several things we should keep in mind:
    1. Successful countries have run a number of strategies in parallel. (The maths say this makes sense. If you run 2 strategies that are independently 50% effective in parallel the combination is 75% effective.)
    2. The virus is mutating. We will need more and more effective strategies and not assume that something that is working now will continue to be as effective as it is now.
    3. It can take time between catching the virus and symptoms appearing. In some cases there will be no symptoms. Treat everyone as though there is some risk that they are transmitting.
    4. Read what I wrote about my son’s family cases above. We need to do a lot of testing to pick up problem areas and understand that single results may be false positives or negatives.
    6. Premiers are being crazy horse when they want people to test at the first sniffle and lock themselves up for days. What counts are lots of tests. There should be incentives, not disincentives. Need lots of research on more accurate/faster tests.
    7. Too many people are being damaged with no compensation as a result of things like border closures. We need to reduce the collateral damage of covid policies.
    8. Air filtering makes a lot of sense especially things like pubs, clubs and schools.
    Here endeth yet another rant.

  16. I’ve fixes (closed) your link, John.

    Nothing there I would argue with.

    On the new (Nu) variant, I think the main thing is that we don’t know anything, except that it is faster and displaces Delta.

    If it is less injurious, this may be good in the long run. I’m told that Pfizer can tweek their vaccine fairly readily, and if they can others also probably will.

    However, I’m a precautionary type of guy, and am not against taking pre-emptive action to limit its spread. The South Africans say the Brits and other are overreacting – South Africa accuses UK and others of ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to new variant.

  17. Brian: “On the new (Nu) variant, I think the main thing is that we don’t know anything, except that it is faster and displaces Delta.”
    The logical mutation path is for a disease to become less deadly and more infectious. And, in these days of better medicine mutate faster.

  18. Just after I turned the computer off I heard it was Omicron, not Nu.

    The WHO is not recommending closing borders, but then it never does. Prof Anthony Zwi’s article Travel bans aren’t the answer to stopping new COVID variant Omicron says:

      Australia has followed other countries and regions – including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and the European Union – and banned travellers from nine southern African countries.

      Australians seeking to return home from southern Africa will still be able to do so. But they will enter hotel quarantine and be tested. Those who have returned from the nine countries – South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, the Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique – in the past 14 days will have to isolate.

      But Omicron has already been detected in other regions, including the UK, Germany, Israel, Hong Kong and Belgium. So while a travel ban on southern African countries may slow the spread and buy limited time, it’s unlikely to stop it.

    Japan is being ultra cautious, banning all arrivals.

    In Britain,

      health secretary Sajid Javid said new Covid rules will be enforced from Tuesday, including mandatory mask-wearing in shops and on public transport in England, and tighter restrictions on passengers arriving from abroad.

    Sounds a sensible middle path. National cabinet is meeting this afternoon, so we await to see what happens there.

    It looks as though it will take around two weeks to get a half-decent handle on Omicron, but if it displaces Delta, provides immunity, and causes only mild symptoms it could effectively save the world from being slack about getting all countries vaccinated.

    Of course Omicron too can produce new variants. We will need to ask whether we were adequately prepared. My sense is probably not, and we may be fortunate if Omicron is as mild as the early indications suggest.

  19. My trip west was full of interest. Keating’s in Chinchilla working with my nephew and other family members succeeded in delivering a truly beautiful commemoration of my sister’s life.

    We are back here in Brissy, rain has set in for what looks like a couple of days. My wife has to have a melanoma cut out of her leg today, and then has to put her leg up and rest it for two weeks.

    This will change how work around this house is done, or not, but you can’t mess around with melanoma.

  20. National Cabinet met today on COVID and basically changed nothing we didn’t already know. The news is at the end of the official news release:

      The Commonwealth National Security Committee has further taken the decision to push back the reopening to international skilled and student visa cohorts, as well as humanitarian visa holders, from 1 December until 15 December. Reopening to Japan and the Republic of Korea will also be paused to 15 December.

      These are temporary precautions pending more information on the Omicron strain becoming available worldwide.

      Existing arrangements will continue for Australians, permanent residents, immediate family (including parents), and other exempt visa holders including travellers through the New Zealand and Singapore safe travel zones and Pacific Labour Scheme participants.

      States and territories have initiated new quarantine and home isolation requirements under public health measures. The Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Victoria will continue to require 72 hours home isolation for all international arrivals, with 14 days quarantine in place for travellers returning from Southern African countries.

      National Cabinet noted that on the basis of advice provided by the Chief Medical Officer, there was no immediate need to change current settings.

    Today I heard that the WTO does not call for border closures because it punishes the countries that tell us they have found a new variant. They want to avoid coverups.

    In South Africa now, because there are no or few planes flying there they are running out of supplies of the reagents used in COVID testing.

  21. Brian: “Today I heard that the WTO does not call for border closures because it punishes the countries that tell us they have found a new variant. They want to avoid coverups.
    In South Africa now, because there are no or few planes flying there they are running out of supplies of the reagents used in COVID testing.”
    Yep: There are too many disincentives built into the way the world, countries and states are dealing with the pandemic. Think things like:
    User pays for quarantining.
    People premier’s requesting “to get tested even for a sniffle and be rewarded with a 2 weeks isolation without compensation for lost wages.
    User pays for rapid testing tabs. AND: ???

  22. Brian: The Greens candidate for Richmond in the next federal government had a lot to say about problems getting across the border into Qld.
    Among other things she said the secret was to say you were “going to shop at IKEA”. Waste of time saying urgent medical even if you had all the proof in the world.
    Behind the big act Mandy has a very sharp mind and an outrageous way of expressing herself.

  23. John, on ABC Nightlife last night I was listening to the “Issue of the day” talkback session. The topic was volunteering.

    I tuned in mid-show so hadn’t heard earlier discussion., but there had clearly been comment on WA COVID policies.

    These sessions have more than proportionate numbers of WA callers, for some reason. A truck driver rang up saying he had concern for ambulance drivers in WA, who apparently are volunteers. He was concerned how they would have been exposed if WA had as much COVID as NSW or Victoria, and how unfair to them and their families that would have been.

    There were two callers from Sydney who had disturbing tales.

    One was a man who wanted to join his fiance who was in Perth, and was mentally ill to the point of being suicidal. He desperately wanted to go to help and support her. He was double jabbed, was quite happy about paying for two weeks quarantine. He had documented evidence of her condition etc. etc.

    He had repeatedly applied and repeatedly knocked back.

    The second was a barrister, who represented indigenous groups on native title claims. She said she could not do her job without face to face contact with clients, but the cases were proceeding nevertheless. The courts were suggesting the indigenous people find a WA barrister.

    She had had 10 years plus experience. It’s a very specialist area, and in any case you don’t find good barristers sitting around waiting for work. Also she had been paid two years in advance for what she had undertaken to do.

    Apart from cultural issues working with people who were not used to talking to a screen, the technology was crap, with freeze frames, cuts in the sound etc etc.

    No chance of getting special permission.

    Meanwhile after those calls, a string of WA callers, saying how happy they were living without COVID, and the WA economy was keeping the country afloat (pretty much true, Frydenberg pumps his chest, but he has aggregate figures – mining and selling iron ore, and coal and gas from Qld has pretty much replaced drops in tourism and education as export industries).

    It’s all very sad, but WA has a clean border compared with Qld.

    After those two callers we still had WA callers saying, yes but Mark McGowan kept us safe and we are glad he did and does,

    I don’t think IKEA has any special significance, except that it took the official’s brain out of the frame in which she was programmed to make decisions, so essentially she was distracted into making a mistake.

    One reason I’d like a royal commission as part of the COVID review is that I’d like to see Jeanette Young, now Qld Governor, give public account for why the Gold Coast/Tweed arrangements were handled the way they were.

    We have to assume this won’t be the last pandemic, ring-fencing and border controls are going to be part of the toolkit, and we have to do better.

  24. Brian: Mandy, the Greens candidate for Richmond is an outrageous comedian with a very disadvantaged background and a very sharp mind. My assumption is that the IKEA story is a quirky fiction based on the number of people from Northern NSW who used to go to Qld to shop.

  25. At last. NSW LGA elections this Sat. (4 Dec.) Will be free to write posts and do other things after that. Has consumed a lot of my time for the last 12 months.

  26. Brian: NSW patients ostracized in Queensland hospitals due to COVID policy, doctor says
    The above is a another argument for moving pandemic borders and not trusting state premiers to do the right thing during pandemics.

    COVID-related rules mean NSW patients are treated as though they have COVID, even if they return negative results.
    Ms Knowland says when she takes Esther to the hospital for appointments, they are required to stay in a sealed room and are treated only by staff wearing full PPE.
    “[You’re] being monitored, you couldn’t even leave the room to go to the toilet without having someone follow you and clean up after you,” Ms Knowland said.
    “It was very distressing and I don’t think at the moment Esther’s getting the care she deserves or needs.”
    Patients treated as if they have ‘plague’
    A leading Northern Rivers-based paediatrician, Dr Chris Ingall, said NSW patients seeking treatment over the border were being ostracised due to COVID concerns
    Dr Ingall said the Queensland health bureaucracy had imposed the strict conditions.

  27. John the current CHO Dr John Gerrard came to the position from Director of Infectious Diseases at Gold Coast University Hospital. Don’t know how that affects decisions they make about how matters are handled on the Gold Coast.

    I heard prof Greg Dore on why the COVID cases in Victoria are way ahead of those in NSW.

    He brought it down to three factors.

    First, the geography and transport infrastructure of Melbourne means that people can move laterally across the city much more easily.

    Second, Victoria opened schools earlier than NSW did in relation to percentage of the population vaccinated.

    Third, Victoria is testing way less than NSW.

    So two out of three of the reasons he gave are the result of government choices.

  28. I think people are willing to suffer lockdown and inconvenience for a while when they think it is necessary and it is clearly working.
    However, I think Andrews has been obsessed with lockdowns and is making unnecessarily harsh decisions. (Ex: Locking down one place because of a case 700km away. The heavy handed lockdowns of public housing and the idea that testing is rewarded by locking people up for 14 days at some stage.
    Vic may have been a lot better off now if lockdowns had not been so successful early on.

  29. Today we went to see the Qld Ballet’s production of Dracula. I’d say “Robust and ravishing” was a pretty good description.

    My wife and I wore masks inside the theatre, but there were precious few others doing the same.

    The seat I occupied would normally be occupied by my sister-in-law, who lives at Wellington Point and was unable to come.

    Wellington Point people use Capalaba as a main shopping area. There was a case of COVID there today, which I heard about just before we left.

    Rationally, we should have stopped right there.

    Must say I’m disappointed masks are not compulsory in a theatre where every seat was occupied.

  30. Brian: You are lucky to have access to capital city things like the Qld Ballet. It is one of the things we have lost with border closures and the uncertainty re what access will be allowed when you need to make bookings and whether you will be allowed to return.
    We had our local gov election yesterday (Dec 2). Plenty of people wore masks but not everyone. Hard to communicate when your face is covered.

  31. The Greens are looking good in NSW local gov elections:

    The Greens have strongly increased our number of local Councillors across NSW, rising from 56 in the 2017 elections to at least 67 on current counting. This is a statewide increase in councillors of almost 20%. This number is likely to grow as the counting progresses.
    Importantly Greens broke new ground with Councillors elected on new councils growing the statewide representation of elected Greens. This includes Councillors on Yass, Wagga Wagga, Bayside, Burwood, City of Sydney, The Hills, Lane Cove, Mid Coast, Kempsey, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Ballina and Brewarrina.
    The Greens vote also grew significantly on strong traditional Greens councils including the Inner West, Waverley and Randwick. On current counting the Greens have outpolled Labor in the Inner West with at least five Councillors elected and are looking to have a record four Councillors on Randwick Council.
    One of the state-wide highlights is the Greens strongly leading the counting for the popularly elected Mayor of Shoalhaven in the face of a huge conservative campaign from former Christian Democrats member of Parliament Paul Green. The Greens Amanda Findley is leading that race with over a third of all primary votes.
    The Greens are looking to send a record three Councillors to Kiama which is matched by at least three Greens for neighbouring Shoalhaven Council.
    In Hornsby Emma Heyde received a 43% primary vote against sitting Mayor and Former Liberal Minister Phillip Ruddock which is a swing to the Greens of 24.5%. Emma is one of a record three Greens elected to Hornsby.
    We also pay tribute to the Mayor of Glen Innes, Carol Sparks, who had the courage at the time to call out the 2019/20 bushfires as being the result of climate change. She has been returned to Glen Innes Council with the highest vote of any candidate.

    NSW is a different world from Qld in respect for Greens support.
    Campaigning during covid involved a number of restrictions. These included no door knocking and no handing out how to vote cards.

  32. Today is a medical day for me (routine stuff, no problems) but I took the opportunity to follow up on what is happening to my Honda mower. It’s the standard top-of-the-range push mower that contractors use, has done some hundreds of hours, and about three weeks ago became unusable for me because the starter pull rope broke off inside the anchor mechanism on the top of the mower.

    Just needs some parts. Also needs new blades and a few other minor bits.

    So checking progress today I was told that the parts do not exist within Australia. Pre-COVID the parts could be landed and available within 6-8 days.

    Now it is 6-8 weeks before they enter the country, in Melbourne, I believe. Then the whole container load is fumigated, and then quarantined for two weeks.

    After that it needs to wait for a driver to bring it up here, taking priority down the list after food, pharma, medical supplies etc.

    Quarantining mower parts after fumigation may have been a good precautionary idea in April 2020, but why are we still doing it now?!!?

  33. Queensland is opening up on next Monday, 13 December, before 17 December as previously indicated because we are reaching the 80% level of vaccination ahead of schedule.

    There are lots of issues around this, because people coming from interstate will still need a permit showing vaccination and a test prior to coming.

    Here there is virtual compulsory vaccination, with proprietors of many venues having to check vaccination status of people entering. The unvaccinated can enter supermarkets, medical establishments and all basic services, including gyms.

    The govt is saying there will be no backtracking, no matter how many cases. The border will stay open. We’ve had seven deaths in all, and none since April last year. We are expecting about 200 in the next few months.

    That’s ‘living with the virus’, which for oldies like me and my wife will be considerably more dangerous.

  34. Brian: The problem with long border closures and lockdowns is that they place most of the pain of the covid fight on a small number of people. In the case of Vic and NSW the lockdown pain was concentrated on low income earners
    The border closure pain was concentrated on those who had a frequent need to cross state borders. Then think of the Q’landers who have been locked out of Qld for months to protect those who were not in the wrong place when borders were shut down for yonks on two hours notice.

  35. John, I’ve said there should be an inquiry when key decision makers should front up and explain how and why the made decisions. The Coronial inquest into St Basil’s in Melbourne is throwing up some amazing stuff.

    Here I am more interested in whether Australia will stay open in the face of Omicron and what it means for how we transact our lives.

  36. Two interesting items in this morning’s papers.

    First, Qld CHO Jeanette Young comments that she was fortunate when COVID hit that her youngest child was 18, and she had the support of a recently retired husband, who I believe was an epidemiologist. Her first nominated replacement took a couple of weeks to work with her to get the feel of the job, and decided it was not for him. Apparently he has a young family.

    In QWeekend she says she has no regrets.

    In the AFR Jacob Greber fills in for Laura Tingle in her usual opinion piece with an article in the print version titled Australia stuck in a mental swamp of its own making.

    He pays out on Annastacia Palaszczuk:

      Her display of ignorance – of both the reasons why people need to travel and of the freedoms people enjoy in many parts of the world – was a peak example of the cretinous inwardly focused statism that has taken over much of this federation.

    This cretinous statism allowed us to lead relatively normal lives. Check out the state by state comparisons in this ABC article.

    I don’t think people in WA, SA, Tas and Qld would want to change places with NSW and Victoria. The safety in those states has been world class and had they taken a different course Josh Frydenberg would not have the favourable aggregate economic figures he is so proud of.

  37. NSW urged to reintroduce COVID-19 restrictions after state sets new national record of cases

    The call from Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid came after the state set a national record on Saturday, with 2,482 locally acquired infections.
    NSW Health says it is likely the majority of them are the Omicron variant.
    A raft of restrictions, including those around masks, QR check-ins and proof of vaccination, were relaxed this week. Changes were also made to definitions of close contacts and isolation status.
    Dr Khorshid said living with the virus did not mean letting it rip like in NSW, where instead of the curve being flattened, it was almost vertical.


    For weeks, Premier Dominic Perrottet has been shifting the focus from case numbers to the rate of hospitalisations.
    There are currently 206 people in hospital with COVID-19, with 26 of them in intensive care.
    Dr Khorshid warned that while those numbers were low, they would change.
    LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic
    “Hospitalisations lag behind infections quite significantly, by a week or even two weeks,” he said.
    “It’s too late once we actually see a sharp rise in hospitalisations.

    No surprise: “Prime Minister Scott Morrison however, hosed down talk of lockdowns, saying Australia was ready to live with the virus.”

  38. John, in this post you asked the question, What have we learned from the pandemic?

    My answer would be, in practical terms, next to nothing.

    NSW seem to be putting their entire weight behind vaccine, and have drunk the PM’s Kool-Aid on personal responsibility. How NSW can neglect masks is beyond understanding. I’m betting Kerry Chant is spewing.

    Qld is re-introducing masks in public places. I have not been anywhere to observe compliance.

    Qld also seems serious about not allowing unvaccinated people into venues beyond the necessities of life.

    My wife and I spent 2 hours today trying to set up my QR code app with a tick. She took 4 tries to do hers. For mine we just went around in circles.

    Then I left her with it and did other stuff for an hour.

    No luck and no result. I went to ‘Feedback’ and found I was not alone.

    The other thing I have learnt is that in listening to talkback exactly no-one understands what the PM’s role should be. They all seem to think he should run the country.

  39. Brian: “The other thing I have learnt is that in listening to talkback exactly no-one understands what the PM’s role should be. They all seem to think he should run the country.”
    I think that the ” Stuff anyone who doesn’t belong in my state” attitude of some premiers caused a lot of unnecessary pain.
    A competent PM should have been controlling movements. In theory at least the movement boundaries could have been placed in places that made sense.

  40. We’ve spent the day pretty much dealing with COVID in one way or another.

    The private clinics where you can make an appointment to get a test are closed.

    We decided after checking that the wait was only 90 mins to head for what I still call the Brisbane General Hospital. Parking a short walk away, they said.

    We got there at 7pm and found we had no chance of being processed, because too many others had shown up.

    I’d have to say with a long cue stretching down the street it was no place to take someone who was actually sick, especially in summer weather.

    Tomorrow we are going to pack lunch and try a drive-through, which seems to be our best bet.

    The person on the COVID hotline was very helpful, after we had waited nearly an hour. However, there is a sequence of boxes to tick, and all she could do was to point us to the boxes.

    The sequence as set up does not really deal with our needs in any way near what is best for us. Our needs require more staff with real discretion to do stuff answering the phone.

    Simply not going to happen.

  41. John, just one point. As far as I can tell the Qld requirements account for about 10% of tests done in NSW.

    Epidemiologist Mike Toole said all the signs are that the NSW system has completely broken down and is overloaded to blazes.

    Qld is moving to adopt the same system as NSW. This is not going to happen with the click of the fingers, as suggested by Brad Hazzard, who would know better.

    Where we seem to be going to is that much greater reliance will be put on rapid antigen tests, but they are not available in quantity yet.

    I heard an interview with the bloke who has the main contract to supply NSW government, the Feds and others. From sometime early January he will be receiving 4 plane loads every day from China.

    A whole new system is being born. We got into trouble because decisions were made to give everyone a decent Christmas, and then came Omicron. A number of epidemiologists, including Fauci and the CHO in SA wanted to cancel Christmas, but it was not realistically possible.

    Have to go now, to take someone for a test, booked in.

    Symptomatically here we are all well, and if we did nothing, said nothing, probably no-one would know, and probably no harm done. But rules are rules, and in sum, for the common good.

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