Thursday, August 26, 2021

Lockdowns don’t just save lives, they cost lives too

Robert Bezimienny

As a practising doctor, it has become clear to me over the past 18 months that lockdowns not only inflict a financial cost – they also cost lives. The decision to impose a lockdown is not as simple as society making sacrifices to save lives. The decision is between losing lives to COVID-19 and losing lives to lockdowns.

The lives lost to COVID-19 are highly visible. In contrast, the lives lost to lockdowns have been and remain largely invisible.

Every life has equal moral value and our aim should be to reduce as many unnecessary deaths as possible, not just reduce deaths attributed to COVID-19.When I see a patient presenting with a disease that could have been diagnosed months, or even a year, earlier, I feel sad, angry and frustrated. The patient is not going to do as well. The difference can be as stark as that between a cure and the prospect of death.

During lockdown last year, patients avoided seeing GPs and specialists. Lockdowns made them fear stepping outside. They missed screening tests for breast cancer, for bowel cancer, for heart disease. Consequently, there will be an increased number of deaths from these conditions in the years to come.

While this avoidance will cost thousands of Australian lives, that toll feels less immediate than an unwell patient today. But lockdowns and the fear they provoke have done more than cost lives in future years – they are costing lives right now.

In the first lockdown, a patient with a lump was too scared to come in and see us at our practice. He will not do as well. The constant news stories had already made him fearful, but the lockdown had made him absolutely terrified. Once lockdown eased, he presented for a consultation, was examined and diagnosed with cancer – but the delay has affected his prognosis.

Another patient was referred to a specialist but deferred his appointment as he did not want to approach a hospital during lockdown. Once lockdown ended, he continued to defer his appointment as he waited for the world to return to normal. By the time he saw a specialist, a rare cancer had spread. This year he underwent palliative treatment. Sadly, he is now dead.

During lockdowns, patients have used the telephone and internet for consultations. This is much better than no consultation but it is not as good as seeing a patient in person. When a very old woman with multiple health problems called our practice with a cough, she was convinced that it was her bronchitis and she received two courses of antibiotics over the telephone. The cough persisted and despite great resistance she was persuaded to come in and allow a doctor to examine her. She did not have bronchitis, she had a much more serious condition: multiple blood clots throughout her lung – pulmonary emboli. She was hospitalised and pulled through.

A friend of mine is an emergency department specialist. During lockdowns he has seen people die from late presentations. He has seen more people die than he has ever seen before. Patients think it is dangerous to leave their own house, so those with chest pain stay at home and when they finally call an ambulance, a treatable heart attack has become fatal. Patients with strokes are too scared to go hospital and miss out on acute treatment that would have limited the damage to their brain. Patients with bacterial infections that would be simple to treat with prompt intravenous antibiotics wait at home and become septic and die.

The incidence of anxiety and depression has not just increased during lockdowns – it has exploded. In Australia, it has more than doubled. Depression can lead to suicide and every year 3000 Australians take their own lives. Many of them are young and their deaths are not visible.

If lockdowns are justified on the basis of potential lives saved, the actual lives lost to lockdowns must also be acknowledged.


Covid-19 Qld: Hotels at capacity as state flooded by interstate exodus

Queensland’s hotel quarantine system is at capacity as authorities grapple with an influx of people from locked-down states wanting to relocate, along with Queenslanders returning home.

It’s understood the State Government has been trying to find additional space to alleviate the “extraordinary pressure” being placed on the system for days which is currently housing more than 5000 people.

And The Courier-Mail understands authorities may consider assessing the risk of particular domestic travellers and letting them quarantine at home for their second week.

More quarantine hotels have also been brought online.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk spruiked the Sunshine State’s current situation at yesterday’s press conference – which was that Queensland was not in lockdown and on track to further lift restrictions this Friday if no community outbreaks were recorded.

“You can go to work, you can go to school, you can go watch sport, you can play community sport, you can go to a restaurant, you can go out,” she said.

Six new cases of Covid-19 were recorded on Tuesday, including two truck drivers who travelled from NSW, but authorities are not concerned.

NSW on Tuesday reported 753 new cases, while Victoria recorded 50.

A Queensland Health spokesperson on Tuesday night said there had been a “steady rise” in the number of people from other states in extended lockdown moving to Queensland throughout the pandemic.


Fury as health bosses erase the word 'women' from official Covid vaccine guide - using the 'inclusive' phrase 'pregnant people' instead

Federal health chiefs have rewritten a Covid-19 vaccination pregnancy guide that bizarrely erases all mention of 'women' and replaces it with 'pregnant people'.

The guide was originally published in February as 'COVID-19 vaccination – Shared decision making guide for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning pregnancy'.

But it was republished last week under its new subtly-tweaked title: 'COVID-19 vaccination decision guide for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning pregnancy'.

Some campaigning groups say using 'women' excludes non-binary or transgender people who may not identify as a woman but can still be pregnant or a mother.

The word 'women' has been replaced by 'pregnant people' in the new version of the official health guide. Federal health chiefs have rewritten a Covid-19 vaccination pregnancy guide that bizarrely erases all mention of 'women' and replaces it with 'pregnant people'.

The document does not mention woman or women anywhere except in links to other websites or in the title of footnote references to other publications.

The word 'mother' is used just twice in the entire eight page booklet.

In all, more than 50 different mentions of women have been deleted from the original version and replaced by 'people' or 'those who are pregnant', sparking fury among some women.

Included in the changes are non-specific sentences like: 'Pregnant people are a priority group for Covid-19 vaccination' and 'Those who are pregnant have a higher risk of severe illness from Covid-19'.

Sky News commentator Rita Panahi blasted the rewrite as nonsense and added: ‘We cannot allow this craziness to be normalised. 'Women get pregnant - that shouldn't be a controversial statement.'

She accused the federal health department of 'buying into radical gender theory' with the rewrite. 'It's seeping in everywhere,' she added. 'It started in academia but now it's the Department of Health.'

Commercial litigator Caroline di Russo added: 'If you asked the everyday person in the street they would be pretty sure that only women could get pregnant.

'This here frankly is silliness, except that there's an undercurrent to it. It's dressed up like inclusivity and caring and whatever. 'But actually, it just has the effect of cancelling women.'


Murdoch’s Fox News issues ABC with legal threat over ‘Four Corners’ Trump episode

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News has threatened the ABC with legal action over a Four Corners episode that examined the American cable TV network’s coverage of former US president Donald Trump and its role in the aftermath of last year’s general election.

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have confirmed that Fox News’ general counsel Bernard Gugar sent a letter to ABC chair Ita Buttrose and managing director David Anderson on August 22, the day before the episode aired on Monday night. The letter, prompted by promotional clips the ABC shared publicly before the episode aired, warned that Fox would consider all options if the episode went to air.

Multiple people familiar with the letter’s contents who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Fox News also disputed any assertions it was responsible for riots that took place at the US Capitol on January 6. It also claimed Four Corners ignored Mr Trump’s criticism of Fox News’ coverage of the election. Fox News’ election desk was the first to call the key battleground state of Arizona for Joe Biden, who won the election. The call was aggressively disputed by members of the Trump administration with Fox’s senior management.

The letter marks the latest escalation in long-running tensions between Australia’s public broadcaster and media outlets controlled by the Murdoch family, which also include local newspapers The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun. Fox News is now expected to formalise a complaint with the ABC and the Australian Communications and Media Authority over what it claims is a breach of impartiality rules by the public broadcaster in the episode.

One senior media lawyer said it was not clear what legal options Fox could pursue over the episode in Australia, unless Four Corners defamed an individual or disclosed highly confidential information about the company. An alternative legal avenue is to seek an injunction on the second episode, the lawyer said, but that would be likely to attract more attention to the program. “The legal options are limited,” the lawyer said.

However, Fox News signalled it will also pursue its complaints about the episode with Australian regulators. Under current ABC guidelines, the national broadcaster is required to seek balance, fair treatment, open-mindedness and opportunities for relevant perspectives on matters of contention.

The Four Corners’ episode, which said Fox News had become a propaganda outlet for Mr Trump, has been heavily criticised by News Corp’s local publications and columnists such as Chris Kenny and Mark Day since going to air on Monday. Fox News is owned by Fox Corp, a separate company to News Corp, which owns its Australian assets, and is run by Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert’s eldest son.

“The episode clearly violates the basic tenets of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s published standards by exhibiting bias and a failure to maintain any level of impartiality in the presentation of news and information,” a Fox News spokesperson said when contacted for comment. “The use of five former deeply disgruntled employees, only one of whom was part of the company during our coverage of the 2020 US presidential election and its aftermath, single-handedly discredits all credibility of the program.

“As for the events of January 6th, implicating Fox News in any way is false and malicious. Congressional hearings this past February and the Biden Justice Department not only did not implicate Fox but other media companies were cited as platforms for inciting and coordinating the Capitol riots.“

The ABC rejected Fox’s claims, saying there are “no errors” or “falsehoods” in the program. “We are satisfied there are none,” a spokesperson said. “The program rigorously complied with the ABC’s editorial policies. Fox Corp and Fox News were repeatedly asked for interviews and declined to take part. Their responses and information they provided are incorporated in the programs.

“News Corp not enjoying scrutiny does not mean the scrutiny is unwarranted. The events around the critical 2020 US Presidential Election and the coverage of it are clearly in the public interest to investigate. The huge role played by Fox News is legitimate to examine.”

The ABC spokesperson said Fox was provided with a detailed outline of the proposed program and that the television network was helpful in providing footage and background material. “The program tried every avenue to get Fox News to provide its point of view,” the spokesperson said. “The program tried for two months to secure an interview with Fox Corp CEO Lachlan Murdoch and made a series of requests for various other senior Fox Corp representatives, as well as for Rupert Murdoch. It also submitted written questions. The responses and information that were provided are incorporated in the program.”

“The story was rigorously tested against the ABC’s Editorial Policies and the ABC stands by it.” The ABC also said it stood by claims Fox had amplified the election fraud storyline and denied that it blamed Fox News for the January 6 riots (Fox News says it called the election accurately for President Joe Biden and ran several programs that scrutinised “stolen election” claims).




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