Monday, March 30, 2020

Australia's coronavirus response is reasonable

While it is far too soon to get excited and there is still a long way to go, in the three days to Friday the increase in the number of new cases seemed to have slowed – although community transmission is still a major concern.

Infectious diseases physician and microbiologist Peter Collignon, a professor at the ANU Medical School, observed on Friday night: “Still early but epidemic curve looks like it’s falling. Hopefully that fall will continue and what we are doing now will cause it to keep on falling.”

Unfortunately the rates ticked back up again on Saturday but this is not a disaster as long as the increase can be kept in check and doesn’t explode exponentially as it did in the early days and weeks. This is known as flattening the curve and flattening the curve has been the government’s strategy all along.

University of Melbourne professor of epidemiology Tony Blakely has been explaining this process very clearly for days now – that the whole point is to slow the spread of the virus to manageable levels, not stop it altogether. That requires patience and calm, two qualities sorely lacking in the social media age.

“You don't go in too hard because you actually want the infection rate to pick up a bit and then hold,” he told the ABC.

Or as he explained it to the far funkier readers of “If we are going to ‘flatten the curve’ then we need to chill a bit.”

That’s a pretty simple message on the biggest news site in Australia from one of the top experts in the country. And yet panic merchants are still squealing that we need to shut everything down now because it’s trending on Twitter.

You also have to wonder how many of those calling for total and immediate nationwide lockdowns are spending their own in leafy suburban homes or stately Victorian terraces instead of sharehouses and studio apartments. You have to wonder if it’s their jobs that will be instantly terminated.

Because it’s easy to wish for a recession when you’re rich enough to ride it out. It’s not so easy when you’re a waiter who’s been wiped out or an aircraft engineer now stacking shelves at Woollies.

Of course everyone has the right to voice their opinion – and some of the contrarian views come from very smart minds.

But for others so sure that everything we’re doing is wrong here are two simple questions they might wish to ask themselves to bring the issue into sharp relief:

1. Am I as smart as Australia’s Chief Medical Officer?

2. Am I going to lose my job?

The hard truth is we are facing both a health crisis and an economic one. We have to do whatever it takes to stop the coronavirus from crashing our hospital system but we also have to do whatever it takes to stop it from crashing our economic system, because if the economy crashes, society crashes.

The cruellest part is that the restrictive approach needed to save our hospitals is the opposite of the expansive approach needed to save our economy. This is the great corona paradox.

We are balancing thousands of lives against hundreds of thousands of livelihoods and the threat of even further loss of life in the future as poverty and unemployment cuts people down. Every decision we take has to be measured against the impact it will have not just across society today but in the months and years ahead – and all of this with infinite uncertainty as to what that impact will be. It is an all but impossible needle to thread.

And so for my two cents, I reckon having graduated restrictions that can be escalated or eased as the situation requires – as opposed to the sledgehammer of universal lockdowns based on no medical evidence – seems like a pretty sensible way to go. And most of the people in charge seem to think that too because that’s exactly what we’re doing.

And if anyone thinks they have a better idea to stop a global pandemic while solving the most crippling economic crisis since the Great Depression then perhaps they should put it in an email.


Rights groups in Australia alarmed at new coronavirus police powers

Rights groups have voiced concern about Australia's rollout of COVID-19 restrictions and how these are being policed.

This week, a number of states announced they were issuing on-the-spot fines for individuals and businesses flouting new COVID-19 rules.

Fines will be issued for not quarantining for 14 days after returning from overseas, attending or organising mass gatherings, and disobeying other government directions such as wedding and funeral sizes.

Depending on the state, individuals face $1,000-$13,345 fines and businesses can be fined up to $66,672.50.

While agreeing the crisis necessitates a strong government response to protect the community, rights groups said these heavy fines should be a "very last resort".

"Police should be trying to promote understanding of the new regulations and new restrictions and doing everything they can to get voluntary compliance," spokesperson for the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Stephen Blanks told SBS News.

"It shouldn't be a revenue-raising exercise for the government," Mr Blanks said.

"And it's so important that when restrictions are imposed, that proper notice is given to a community, that restrictions are clearly available on government websites. So people can see what it is that they are allowed and not allowed to do."

But he said in this instance, officials "have been struggling to achieve clarity". "This confusion makes it hard for members of the public to know what they are allowed to do," he said.

The Federal Government also announced the army has been brought in to make sure returned travellers isolate for 14 days.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison stressed on Friday that defence personnel would not have the power to issue fines, but would assist state and territory authorities.

Mr Blanks said the military's presence could add to the tension. "It's not a situation where you want to see members of the army on the streets with weapons."

The Human Rights Law Centre said civil liberties should not be forgotten in a crisis.

"As governments across Australia adopt emergency powers to lead us out of this crisis it is important that any response is transparent and proportionate," a spokesperson told SBS News in a statement.

"Any emergency powers or legislation passed in this time of crisis must be clearly expressed, narrowly confined to deal with the immediate public health issues, time limited, and independently reviewed on a continuing basis.

"This crisis must not be seen as an opportunity to advance the infringement of our democratic freedoms. We cannot allow a situation in which Australians emerge from this over-policed and under state surveillance with their democratic rights curtailed."

Associate professor of law at Flinders University Marinella Marmo researches human rights issues. With family members in virus-hit Italy, she is well-aware of how important a government response is to COVID-19. "Obviously, I am anxious but I also think that human rights are here to stay and we need to fight for them every single day," she said.

"Emergency measures [are] introduced quickly and this does not allow for a healthy debate on if and how they infringe civil liberties. Unfortunately, in the eye of the storm we lose track of these matters, but we need to remain vigilant.

"We now know that most emergency measures quickly introduced in the past by different governments around the world have not been withdrawn or completely withdrawn, see terrorist measures, for example.

"Any kind of COVID-19 emergency measure needs to be considered in light of ethical standards and human rights. And if now is not the time, as dismissively we may be told, then soon after the emergency is over."

In laying out the new measures, authorities have stressed that enforcing the rules will save lives.

On Saturday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said giving police the new powers was very important as cases continue to rise in the state. "Everyone's got to take this seriously," he said.

Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville said "we sincerely hope that Victoria Police does not have to issue one of these fines, and people do the right thing".

While NSW Police Minister David Elliott told reporters on Saturday that "everything we have done over the course of the last couple of weeks has been to save lives". "Whether it be closing Bondi Beach, whether it be closing our pubs, these are there to stop people from transmitting disease.

"These rules and regulations are not there to punish anybody. They are not there to issue intermittent justice. They are there to protect lives, they are there to save lives."


Australian Reporter Rita Panahi Takes the WHO, Chinese Regime to Task Over Coronavirus Lies

Australian reporter Rita Panahi slammed China's Communist Regime and the World Health Organization for their failures to prevent the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. China was so worried about making sure they weren't blamed for the virus that they did everything in their power to keep whistleblowers quiet. Instead of sounding the alarm about the Wuhan coronavirus, the WHO parroted the regime's talking points, saying the virus wasn't transmitted through person-to-person contact. The organization also failed to recommend travel bans to China.

"I want to talk about China's culpability and conduct throughout the coronavirus crisis that began in Wuhan wet market. The Chinese Communist regime not only lied, destroyed evidence and allowed the virus to spread, but it arrested doctors who, back in December, tried to warn the world about what was happening in Wuhan," she explained. "Some of the whistleblowers arrested and accused of fabricating, disseminating, and spreading rumors have since died. Other domestic critics, from a property tycoon to video bloggers have vanished."

"China is not a regime that tolerates dissent," Panahi explained. "China's initial cover-up included destroying lab samples that established, in December, the cause of unexplained viral infections in the Hubei province. How many lives would have been saved if China had listened to experts instead of silencing them?"

A study carried out by the University of South Hampton showed that China could have prevented 95 percent of Wuhan coronavirus infections "if it would have implemented tough measures just three weeks earlier." Instead of being proactive, the regime waited another month before taking action.

"What's just as shocking is the World Health Organization's complicity in this global pandemic," she said. "From the start, the WHO has unequivocally praised China's response and pushed its absurd narratives while ignoring the regime's dishonesty and recklessness."

Panahi reminded viewers that back in January, the WHO shared a tweet citing Chinese health official's who claimed there was no evidence the virus transmitted through human-to-human contact.

"[The WHO] refused to declare a pandemic until March 11th. And, as late as February, it was parroting China in criticizing travel restrictions," she said. "Don't forget that when Scott Morrison and Donald Trump implemented travel bans against China in late January, they did so against WHO's advice."

Both China and the WHO deserve to be held accountable for this pandemic. They could have kept the Wuhan coronavirus from spreading around the world had they admitted the virus began in China and was being transmitted through human-to-human contact. Instead of giving other countries the heads up so they could prepare or make decisions to protect their citizens, China was radio silent and they punished those who spoke out.

Instead of calling it the World Health Organization, we should call it the Chinese Health Organization. At the end of the day, the organization is only concerned about how the Chinese regime looks to the rest of the world.


Australian schools: Digital equity needed for success

For millions of young Australians, it’s home schooling from now on. As well as getting their heads around months of staying inside – often in small apartments with no easy access to big, green spaces – families urgently need to work out how to carry on with learning.

The Prime Minister and other leaders rightly point to the risks facing the educational progress of young Australians as the nation locks down. Given the data showing that many students are already up to three years behind their international peers in reading, mathematics and science, they cannot afford to miss a beat as they watch a very strange school year unfold.

The first of Australia’s two national goals for schooling refers to ‘excellence and equity’.  Excellence in education is already the subject of much debate, but the Covid-19 emergency will exacerbate equity issues, with no guarantee that all young learners can simply switch to high-quality online learning.

And school closures are happening at the same time as most businesses and organisations ramp up their technological capability to keep things going. This is potentially the greatest test of the $50+ billion national broadband network. Our average speeds have improved, but other countries are doing better, and this was probably a major factor for Japan and Hong Kong in their early decision to close all schools.

Ideally, for at least some part of each day, Australian students should be able to see and hear their teachers as well as their classmates. Schools will want to keep students connected and maintain a sense of belonging, otherwise motivation and achievement will go out the window.

But some schools are advising parents that live streaming of lessons cannot occur because of the variation in household internet services and devices.

Every child will need the right device and the necessary software. As in some universities, this might mean offering financial support to students who would otherwise depend on school computers, who cannot afford internet connection or who have a disability.

Enabling equitable access to smart digital technology would be an encouraging sign of the effectiveness of state and territory policies and funding strategies

Australia’s education ministers own Education Services Australia, a national company that claims a “unique combination of education and technology expertise to create and deliver solutions that can be used to improve student outcomes and enhance performance across all education sectors.” ESA built the Australian Curriculum website, among many other projects.

Never has there been a better time for that organisation to show what it can do.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

No comments: