Monday, July 06, 2020

Why one of the world's top disease experts says Australia should abandon hard lockdowns, embrace 'herd immunity' and let COVID-19 rip

Sweden may have more deaths so far but should be safer from a future upsurge

A top disease expert has urged Australia to abandon its 'selfish' and 'self congratulatory' lockdown tactics and embrace a Swedish-style herd immunity strategy to fight COVID-19.

University of Oxford professor Sunetra Gupta said the Scandinavian country has 'done quite well in terms of deaths' - despite its record of 5,300 fatalities dwarfing Australia's.

Sweden holds the fifth-highest rate of deaths per capita in the world after the Nordic nation took its own path and declined to close its restaurants, bars, schools and shops to fight the spread of the virus.

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has since called for an inquiry into the so-called soft approach. 

On the other hand, Australia took on a comparatively tougher stance and closed down state borders, businesses, restaurants and pubs earlier in the year.

The country has recorded 104 deaths with new coronavirus cases in the community only recorded in Victoria - despite the state enforcing some of the toughest lockdown measures in the country.

State premier Daniel Andrews was slammed by critics as 'Chairman Dan' for the state's harsh lockdown measures in response to the initial COVID outbreak in March - at one point even banning the playing of golf.

Victoria is now in the grips of what state health officials have politely described as a 'second peak', if not a second wave.

Professor Gupta has argued the state's predicament is proof that lockdown measures are ineffective in the longterm. 'There is no way lockdown can eliminate the virus … and so it's not at all surprising once you lift lockdown in areas it will flare up again,' she told The Australian.

'That is what we are seeing in the southern United States, and in Australia.'  

According to scientific research, between 30 and 81 per cent of the global population have T-cells from previous colds and flus that could automatically recognise the threat of the coronavirus, making them immune.

A large number of Australians will also be asymptomatic if they came down with the virus.

Professor Gupta argued it would be better to let COVID-19 spread in the community and have stronger measures to protect the vulnerable - such as the elderly or sick.

'You can only lock down for so long unless you choose to be in isolation for eternity so that's not a good solution,' she was quoted saying.

Australia has pinned its hopes on a vaccine, with human trials underway at universities around the world.


Protests dying out in Brisbane

Fewer than a thousand people gathered for a Black Lives Matter protest in Brisbane city on Saturday, leaving organisers disheartened.

Just weeks ago, some 30,000 Queenslanders turned out to a rally following the death of African-American man George Floyd at the hands of police.

'I can not explain the disappointment,' Gomeroi Kooma woman Ruby Wharton told the small crowd gathered at King George Square on Saturday.

'It was okay for people to come out here and want to be a part of it when they were chasing a hundred likes on Instagram.'  'That is shameful and tokenism,' she said.

Organiser Bogaine Spearim told reporters the rally was intended to be a continuation of the global protests that kicked off in the wake of Mr Floyd's death in May.

'Deaths are continuing to happen in Australia - Dave Dungay Jnr said 'I can't breathe' before dying in custody,' he said. 'We will continue to hit the streets and disrupt until there is justice.'

Despite the small turnout, the protestors were vocal, shouting 'Always was, always will be Aboriginal land' and, 'No justice, no peace, no racist police'.

Garrwa and Butchulla man Fred Leone called on the Queensland government to conduct a broad review into black deaths in custody. 'F**k all has changed since 1991, since the last royal commission,' he said

'Black Lives Matter. They do not just matter cause it is trending, they matter every single day.'

More than 430 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are known to have died in custody in Australia since a royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody delivered its final report in 1991.

Organisers are also calling for anti-racism training in schools and an end to racial profiling by police.


Australia risks squandering a lucrative export - and a diplomatic opportunity

There are a few things Australia is really good at. Most of them are resources, given to us through good fortune and geographical circumstance, we dig them up and send them all over the world, earning about $180 billion a year in the process.

A look down the top 10 list of Australia's exports - a roll call of the country's areas of comparative advantage – puts education at number three, tourism at number five, and mostly rocks in between.

Iron ore makes good steel but does little for exporting Australia's values or influence. Education does. Now it appears we may be squandering it.

Historically, the flow of people for educational exchange in Western democracies is seen as a way of transferring democratic values to non-democratic regions of the world.

There is no larger non-democratic market than China. At Australia's top universities they account for 60 per cent of all international enrolments, or 110,000 students. It is a massive market – worth $3.1 billion a year to the top 10 universities alone − and with many international students coming from more privileged backgrounds than average, a huge strategic opportunity to influence the potential future leaders of industry and government.

On Friday, the Business Council of Australia's Asia Taskforce published a report that found the single greatest post-COVID-19 opportunity for the Australian economy lies in Asia. China is the only G20 economy and along with Vietnam, one of the few economies in the world currently forecast to show growth in 2020.

"Australia must maintain a comprehensive and multi-faceted economic relationship with China in a strategy which focuses on the national interest but based on the principle of “China and” rather than “China or," the taskforce said.

"A challenge for Australia is that China has a different political system and is becoming more
assertive on the international stage as its economy grows. At the same time, China will remain our largest trading partner and a significant foreign investor in Australia, and thus a significant contributor to much of our prosperity for the foreseeable future."

The key to harnessing that growth is people. Particularly those who understand how business operates in both China and Australia, many of whom are likely to be Chinese students who have studied here themselves.

Unfortunately, the flow-on effects of increasingly heated diplomatic rhetoric from politicians on both sides into the community is undermining that opportunity, as is a spike in discrimination against Chinese students and Chinese-Australian migrants during the coronavirus.

China has ratcheted up the tension in its increasingly shaky relationship with Australia, with the government now urging its citizens not to travel here.

Researchers from Stanford University in California this week released research that found Chinese students who study in the United States are more predisposed to favour liberal democracy than their peers in China. It is not unreasonable to expect similar tendencies to appear in those heading to Australia.

But the study of more than 300 Chinese first-year undergraduate students in 62 universities across the US found once they encountered anti-Chinese discrimination, it significantly reduces their belief that political reform is desirable for China and increases their support for authoritarian rule.

"Strikingly, we find that encountering xenophobic discrimination is more likely to increase support for autocracy among students who are more predisposed against the Chinese regime and less supportive nationalistic Chinese policies," researchers Yingjie Fan, Jennifer Pan, Zijie Shao, and Yiqing Xu found.

"Altogether, this means that xenophobic discrimination blocks and perhaps unravels the micro-foundation of the effects of education on transferring democratic values."

Two years before the coronavirus ravaged the global economy, Australia’s former Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane warned the China debate was “threatening to spill over into a general suspicion of Chinese-Australians,” Australia was "flirting with danger” and “intolerance has been emboldened”.

Asian-Australians reported almost 400 racist attacks since the beginning of April, according to a Per Capita survey.

It is jarring to be considering this now as Hong Kong goes through a violent and distressing erosion of its civil liberties driven by the very top of the Chinese Communist Party, but China thinks in decades, not years. It is likely that our engagement with our largest trading partner will have to continue in some form after its most liberal territory is suppressed.

To be sure there are valid reasons for alarm rising in the Australian community about Chinese government’s growing influence and ambitions in the region. It has waged campaigns of disinformation, attempted to manipulate Australian politics, hacked computer networks, is expanding its military reach in the Pacific and repressed, often brutally, ethnic minorities at home.

But the tenor of the conversation in Australia has now reached such a point that two of Australia's foremost foreign policy experts were denounced by Michael Danby, a former member of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, for briefing a Labor shadow cabinet on the need for “sensible engagement” with China.

The two experts were Allan Gyngell, a former foreign policy adviser to Paul Keating and head of the Office of Nat­ional Assessments and Dennis Richardson, the former head of ASIO and Australia's ambassador to Washington.

Both suggested that a rising group of claw-branded Parliamentarians known as the Wolverines, who aim to aggressively curtail China's influence, may be counterproductive.

Danby was incensed. “It reeks of someone trying to reinforce ideological conformity," he told The Australian.

In other words, shut down the debate, there is no room for nuance on China.

"The list of compradors to be dragged before the Committee on UnAustralian Activities over not adhering to the correct line on China is getting longer by the day!," Richard McGregor, a senior fellow with the Lowy Institute posted on Twitter.

In the midst of all this, business is largely being cowed. Until Friday, the public has heard very little from the BCA or the Australia-China Business Council since bilateral diplomatic ties went into the freezer earlier this year. Big names such as Seven Group chairman Kerry Stokes and miner Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest go out and take the hits (with a heavy dose of self-interest) before retreating under a swell of anti-China sentiment. For every big business there are thousands of small businesses underneath that rely on China.

They cannot take part in the debate lest they are accused of reinforcing ideological conformity.

The Stanford University study suggests that while nuance is out of fashion, it might be the best chance Australia has of sending back well-informed former students to China with ideas that it may benefit from in the long term.

Those students that were not exposed to discrimination but were made aware of criticisms of the party did not tend to gravitate back towards authoritarianism.

"We find no increase in support for authoritarian rule when Chinese students encounter non-racist criticisms of China, the Chinese government, and China’s political institutions made by Americans," the study found.


Australian first: Human coronavirus vaccine trials begin in South Australia

The first potential coronavirus vaccine developed in the southern hemisphere has begun human trials in Adelaide, with volunteers praised for their efforts to help save the world from the killer disease.

Australian company Vaxine will use a clinical trial unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital to test the COVAX-19 vaccine.

Forty volunteers aged between 18 and 65 will be given two doses three weeks apart and will then have blood tests to measure protective antibody and their responses.

Vaxine research director Nikolai Petrovsky said COVAX-19 used a type of technology that mirrored previous work on vaccines for the SARS coronavirus.

He said it was thought to provide the most certain and reliable results. Known as the recombinant spike protein approach, it seeks to induce a hormonal and cellular immune response.

“As early as January 2020, our modelling identified that COVID-19 as a major pandemic threat that could potentially cause millions of deaths globally,” Professor Petrovsky said.  “Unfortunately, our early predictions were spot on.”

“Pandemic research is not something you can turn on and off like a tap,” she said. “People should not think that short-term funds, no matter how large, can deliver instant pandemic solutions after a crisis hits; it will always be too little, too late.”

South Australian Health Minister Stephen Wade said the willingness of volunteers to take part in the trial could play a key role in conquering COVID-19.

“As we can see with this trial today, by having local health networks that are friendly to research, we can actually give South Australians access to the very latest cutting edge technology and care,” Mr Wade said.

“We’ve got a strong emphasis on building medical research and programs such as this. “We’re very keen to make sure our facilities are not only delivering high-quality care for South Australians but also are the base for economic development.”


 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

1 comment:

Paul said...

"Gomeroi Kooma woman Ruby Wharton" (they forgot to say "proud")

Its all so identity-politics tiresome.