Living and dying with COVID-19

We don’t use our own brains on Covid rules in Queensland any more. We just follow whatever NSW and Victoria decide.

So Queensland will ease Covid isolation rules from Thursday, bringing the state’s rules closer in line with NSW and Victoria, where ‘living with Covid’ is the go.

From the ABC monitoring site, Omicron is not kind to oldies, especially males:

The libertarians have not won completely.

    Household contacts will not need to quarantine at home for seven days, but they must return a negative rapid antigen test every two days.

    They must also wear face masks indoors, as well as when outdoors if they can’t socially distance.

    They will also have to tell their employers they are a close contact, and avoid high-risk environments like hospitals and aged care settings.


    The government will also ditch mandatory quarantine for unvaccinated travellers arriving from overseas, but they will still need to test negative.

That is to facilitate all those tourists who come to see Uluru, the Sydney Opera House and the Great Barrier Reef.

Kathy Eagar and Darcy Morris take a look at the state of play in None of us is safe until all of us are safe: Australia and global vaccine equity. We have been encouraged to live with COVID, but:

    We ended the year with just under 400,000 cases and a total of 2,239 deaths, giving us one of the lowest rates in the world. But the sad reality is that the pandemic is not behind us. Fifteen weeks later, cases numbers have risen to more than 5 million and there have been more than 6,700 deaths; we are recording more than 300,000 cases and 200 deaths a week, and over 3,000 people are in hospital each day. Sadly, segments of our society remain especially vulnerable, including the elderly, people with disabilities and people unable to be vaccinated due to compromised immune systems. The toll of people living with long COVID rises daily.

Meanwhile the health and prosperity of some neighbouring countries in our region remains in serious jeopardy. Eagar and Morris consider our contribution to the international effort to be meagre and sub-par.

OzSage, with an impressive line-up of specialists, was formed to give “independent advice on public health, health systems and other policy matters relevant to COVID-19 control, with diverse and multidisciplinary perspectives.” On 28 February they released an open letter to those charged with protecting us.

I’ll repeat here their last four paragraphs:

    Available evidence suggests that herd immunity is unlikely to be achieved with either the current generation of vaccines or by allowing people to become infected with the virus. Reinfection with the same or different variants of COVID-19 is now well documented.

    Omicron had serious impacts on supply chains and health services due to staff absences, with the hospitality and retail sectors impacted by lack of staff and a ‘buyers’ strike’. This is likely in future waves unless governments to adopt science-based policy and the precautionary principle.

    Community transmission disproportionately affects at-risk populations – people with cancer, asthma, diabetes, immunosuppression, those with disabilities, older Australians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, migrants, the economically disadvantaged and regional and remote Australia.

    To date, most Australians have complied with protective public health measures (most of which do not affect freedom of movement) to ‘flatten the curve’ not just for our own health but to protect vulnerable members of society. This is still a relevant principle in a civilised society, where we should aim to leave no one behind.

An article of April 14 2022 at Roy Morgan finds:

    The first Omicron wave began in early December and led to infections peaking in mid-January at over 700,000 before declining rapidly over the next few weeks and bottoming in February. A second Omicron wave began in early March and is still ongoing with tens of thousands of new cases every day.

    The high caseload means over 450,000 Australians are currently forced into week-long isolation because of being infected with the virus, and many hundreds of thousands more, such as family members living in the same house, are forced into periods of isolation due to being close contacts of those who are infected.

    The forced isolation of many employees is in turn forcing businesses to hire more workers on part-time hours. In March part-time employment increased by 289,000 to a near-record high of over 4.7 million. This is where all the employment growth in the labour market has come from over the last few months. (Emphasis added)

That’s just quoting Department of Health figures. There is no reason to suppose they are correct, because reporting a positive RAT test is basically voluntary. When people are sick their communication can suffer.

In Queensland, we have about 7,000 cases per day. Around six deaths per day, whereas prior to Omicron we had about that many in two years. From what I hear on the radio we have 500 or so in hospital at any given time, plus 20 or more in ICU.

This is having an effect on the health system. We hear that Half of all patients ramped for at least half an hour in ambulances.

Moreover, we are coming into winter. Doctors tell us to expect a Brutal flu season ahead after two years without jabs.

There is a real question as to whether COVID since the Omicron version appeared can be contained at all. The question is being asked Will Omicron finally overpower China’s COVID defences? They suppressed the surge in early March, but now the virus is surging again.

My money is on the virus, but even if they win, China’s methods can’t be used anywhere else. Iceland, which had a good record on virus control, has admitted defeat and now controversially aims at herd immunity. There is more at New Scientist (pay-walled).

Actually, they are doing well with the 7-day average reducing from around 3,000 per day to about 80. Most experts say herd immunity is unachievable, and concerns remain about long COVID, whether the vulnerable are being accorded proper care and respect, and the possible emergence of new strains.

All in all I found the advice of Dr Maria Van Kerkhove of the WHO clear, sensible and apposite – do what you can, within reason, but take it seriously. Omicron may be milder overall than earlier variants, but it can be severe. A new variant will be by necessity even more infectious, and could be more severe.

Here in Oz the chief urger in pretending that Omicron is done and dusted is one Scott Morrison, who currently legally occupies the space set aside for prime minister. I did not know that the term “strollout”, coined by Sally McManus to describe his vaccine rollout, was named Macquarie Dictionary’s word of the year.

Van Kerkhove’s sign-off was to “Stay safe, stay healthy and stick with science.” We could do worse than paying heed to OzSage.

14 thoughts on “Living and dying with COVID-19”

  1. I started a new Weekly salon, because we haven’t had one in months, then felt the urge to expand on this topic.

    What does “jumped the shark” mean? I think I’ve just seen it on the election campaign.

  2. New Scientist article – Zero-covid strategies are being ditched, but they were the best option:

      IT HAS been two years since the World Health Organization declared covid-19 a pandemic, and governments are still changing tack. One of the biggest shifts has been the abandonment of the “zero covid” strategy by countries like New Zealand and Vietnam, which are opening up and allowing the virus to spread.

      As a result, it is tempting to think the approach was a mistake and that the strategy of nations like the UK has won out. But that is nonsense. Countries that followed the zero-covid playbook have done better on every measure, from death rates to economic growth. If more nations had implemented this approach, humanity would be in a better place. When the next pandemic emerges, governments should consider trying to eliminate it using zero-covid methods.

    I think we had reached a stage by December 2021 that much of the tourist/hospitality industry would not survive further lockdowns. Moreover, there was a shadow pandemic creating long-term harm in mental health and social isolation.

    Michael Slezac has an article which wrestles with the hard questions of who dies from Covid and how much it matters.

  3. Here is a covid experience account of a Aussie couple who have been sailing around Greece for a year.

    The trouble with Covid is that it depends how you get it, which organs it settles in and what the viral load is.

    I think I am going to get boosted. I am content in my little protected space, but as time goes on the risk gets greater.

  4. bilb, I’d suggest the bloke might seek out a vestibular rehab physiologist, if they can find one. I’ve had issues in that regard for at least 10 years. I saw Equilibrium Rehab in 2015, I think. She couldn’t diagnose anything, but gave me some exercises that worked.

    I was pretty good since about 2018, but recently got the wobbles again. This time she diagnosed Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo on the right side.

    He might have something quite different, the symptoms are different for everyone.

    My problem wasn’t as bad as his, but I can certainly tell you that if your balance goes it f***s up your head. The literature I have says that a virus can be the cause.

    Other than that on COVID generally, we’ve lost the plot. heard today that our death rate is about 10% above normal because we are losing about 40 per day to the virus.

    I think the buck stops with the PM in this case.

  5. Some of the things that we did for covid were fairly effective at the expense of having a big effect on people’s lives that led to pressure to get rid of strategies that were having too much effect. For example consider the Vic lockdown policies and Andrews exhortation for anyone with very common symptom’s for a whole range of illness too lock themselves up for 14 days. 14 days for a sniffle??
    The situation wasn’t helped by state borders being used to control the spread of the virus. Worked OK for WA because the borders are in very isolated places where very few locals would need to cross the border for work, medical treatment. Not OK for Qld/NSW because the border runs thru mega cities like Tweed Hds/Gold coast where a lot of people would normally cross for work, going to school, medical treatment etc. Not helped by the Qld Premier making it clear that she didn’t give a stuff for NSW people who normally used Brisbane for capital city services.
    There was also a problem with a failure to do relatively inexpensive things like installing appropriate air filters in buildings.
    The new government should initiate a review of what did and did not work here and overseas. This should include what did and did not work and what might have worked to reduce the disease and collateral damage.

  6. John, I agree with your general proposition that people are over having their lives restricted. The problem now is that Covid is not over. It has become very real in our family, and has not been pretty to watch.

    I published the post on 27 April. On 23 May OzSage released COVID-19 has become a leading cause of death in Australia – Urgent Call for Action:

      Deaths per day have been climbing, and currently sit at over 50 deaths per day. We are on track to reach approximately 15,000 to 18,000 deaths from COVID in 2022 – up to sixteen times the annual road toll (which was 1,127 in 2021) and six times the deaths from the worst recent flu season (3,024 deaths in 2017).

      As of 8 May, there have been at least 145 deaths due to COVID amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with 38 recorded just in Queensland. Almost all these deaths occurred this year. While this is less than 2% of deaths nationally, when we look at age-specific rates, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 2-3 times more likely to end up in ICU or to die from COVID than non- Aboriginal Australians of the same age.

    I did hear PM Albanese say he was going to seek a briefing during his first week, but I’m betting it did not happen.

    Moreover, on the tangible evidence so far I’m not sure the new health minister with advice from the experts the previous government was using are going to make a noticeable difference.

  7. Part of the problem is that it is not obvious that you have covid.
    Asked my sons what symptoms were when they and grandson got it.
    One son replied: “Son got minor flu symptoms and was required to test for work. We both went and got tested, and both came up positive. I developed minor flu symptoms soon after and we were both slightly sick for a few days. We tested again after a week and came up negative, so son returned to work. It was around when it was going rampant in Qld (and across Oz), and a bunch of his co-workers had gotten it, so we suspect he caught it there. I know quite a few people who have caught it this year, and all of them had very minor cold/flu symptoms. Possibly a few friends had it that didn’t even bother testing. Most of my peers here seem to have stopped even caring about it.”
    Hazel and I have had flu and covid shots and carry and often use masks.

  8. Then there is the issue of better treatments: for example: COVID-19 antivirals: Doctors urged to raise awareness with at-risk patients

    Last week, Australia’s deputy chief medical officer told GPs to be more proactive in raising awareness about new COVID-19 antiviral treatments with their at-risk patients.
    These drugs – nirmatrelvir–ritonavir (Paxlovid) and molnupiravir (Lagevrio) – are effective in keeping people out of hospital and are meant to be bringing down the death rate, which stands at more than 1000 people a month.
    The rollout has been problematic and, as widely reported, many if not most people who were eligible for the treatment have missed out.

    Just a thought. Vehicle deaths ae not high enough to get people to curb their bad driving habits.
    While many of us know people who have had covid few of us would have known people with bad enough covid to have died, suffered from long covid or even have needed to go to hospital for it. This may account for all those who can’t be bothered.
    Me I am strategic enough to take precautions under some circumstances but am now not as cautious as I was earlier on. (Vacs+boosters are part of the reason for being a bit less careful.)

  9. John, I know someone who did not die, but Covid gave her a condition that could have stopped her heart beating.

    That has been avoided, but a couple of weeks after symptoms passed she is very, very tired. No way of telling how that is going to work out.

    Good point about anti-virals and other treatments. Worth repeating:

      One of the issues affecting the rollout is that patients need to start taking the medication within five days of first developing COVID symptoms.

      Professor Kidd said: “As you know, it is essential that people commence treatment as soon as they develop symptoms, so people who are at risk should be tested promptly and antivirals commenced quickly.”

    They are having rollout problems. What a surprise!

  10. Brian: A few statements:
    Covid kills/disables people;
    Indirectly by:
    Reducing capacity of health systems to handle other medical problems.
    Reducing some people’s income to point where makes it harder to afford healthy food, medical treatments etc.
    Covid damages the economy and reduces quality of life:
    As a result of:
    The disease.
    Diversion of resources to fight the disease.
    Strategies used to fight the disease. (Ex: Lockdowns, border
    closures. )

  11. John, just has news that a guy I work for is in bed with COVID. He is in bed, didn’t sound too good on the phone.

    I sent his wife the link you gave about getting treatment early.

    Hope it all works out.

  12. Is UK at start of new Covid wave driven by BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants?

      If you thought Covid-19 was dead and gone, think again. Early signs indicate that the UK may be at the start of a new wave of Covid infections driven by BA.4 and BA.5 – while new data suggests these variants may have evolved to refavour infecting lung tissue, which could make them more dangerous.


      According to research published in Science on Tuesday, natural infection with Omicron doesn’t produce a strong immune response, regardless of whether scientists look at antibodies or T-cells – meaning that people who have already recovered from an Omicron infection can quickly become reinfected.

    At present I think the virus is winning.

    China seems to be winning, but you have to win completely to win. My money is with the virus, and we are all paying.

  13. A Dutch boat neighbor (I don’t hear the local news myself) told me yesterday that Europe is heading for a new wave of lock downs.

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