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.

4 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.

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