Flattening the curve vs (near) eradication

Here are some comments I’ve written in a rapid response to Brendan Murphy’s recent press conference. (I haven’t yet seen even the summary of the modelling that has apparently been released, just a picture of flattened curves.)

The idea of “flattening the curve” is fundamentally misleading, since it implies that most people will be infected until herd immunity is achieved, while the number of cases remains within the capacity of the health system. But assuming spare capacity of 2 beds per 1000 people, and 20 per cent of patients requiring treatment, we would need at least five years for herd immunity to be achieved. Optimal policy is to aim for near-complete eradication, then maintain sufficient distancing to ensure local outbreaks don’t spread. We will need quarantine for international arrivals until vaccination is general, or until other countries achieve near-complete eradication.


The main insight from economics is derived from option value concept. Better to adopt stringent measures early and relax if they turn out to be excessive than to move slowly and risk widespread community transmission.

54 thoughts on “Flattening the curve vs (near) eradication

  1. Fortunately there’s no evidence yet of cats transmitting the Coronavirus to humans. It’s also not known if it can spread through the cat population which would require each infected cat spread it to an average of more than one other cat. So at the moment it looks like we’re safe in this regard and will be able to wipe this particular strain of Coronavirus out of Australia by eliminating it from human beings.

  2. “There are reports from all around the globe of healthcare workers being harassed, intimidated, spat on, taunted, driven out of their homes and neighbourhoods, refused taxi services and discriminated against in shops etc…”

    There are UNVERIFIED reports made by tabloids and their online equivalents all around the globe, keen to shock and enrage you so you’ll look at the ads. It’s called “clickbait” and you really should know better than to take the bait.

  3. Derridaderider, try to wake up, open your eyes and pay attention. The problem is evident even in Australia. From the ABC, which I assume you would agree is NOT a clickbait tabloid that just invents stories:

    Nurses and midwives across NSW are being told to not wear their scrubs outside hospital in the wake of several healthcare workers reporting being assaulted and spat on by members of the public.

    One intensive care nurse at Royal North Shore hospital, the NMA said, was assaulted after boarding a train while wearing her scrubs, while another was screamed at in Coles when she stopped on her way home to get dinner.

    At Westmead Hospital, there were several reports of nurses being refused service at supermarkets and cafes or being abused by petrol station attendants for walking in their uniform.

    In Penrith, police were called to a McDonald’s after a pregnant midwife was verbally attacked at the drive-through before her shift.

    Inside the facilities, staff at Campbelltown Hospital say they are being deliberately coughed on, while at Sydney Hospital nurses are being spat on by “increasingly anxious patients” waiting for their COVID-19 screening.

    Last week, the ABC reported doctors were finding it difficult to secure new accommodation because tenants refused to share space with healthcare workers.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-05/nsw-nurses-midwives-abused-during-coronavirus-pandemic/12123216

  4. Ronald,

    True, there is no evidence yet of cats transmitting the Coronavirus to humans. There is also no evidence yet of cats NOT transmitting the Coronavirus to humans. Cats are so harmful to our wildlife that any person who cared about Australia’s wildlife would want to see pet and feral cats completely removed from the Australian continent.

    Some animal did transmit Coronavirus to humans. It may have been a bat. It may have been a bat to a snake to a human. These two are among the most common scientific hypotheses at this stage.

    “When I was in southern China researching [Spillover], only briefly, I got to see some of these (wet) markets where all forms of wild animals were on sale. … By the time I got there, [these sorts of markets] had gone underground … suppressed after the SARS outbreak. But then [the markets] gradually came back … allowed to continue again and proliferate when this new virus began.

    If you go into a live market, you see cages containing bats stacked upon cages containing porcupines, stacked upon cages containing palm civets, stacked upon cages containing chickens. And hygiene is not great, and the animals are defecating on one another. It’s just a natural mixing-bowl situation for viruses. It’s a very, very dangerous situation. And one of the things that it allows is … the occurrence of “amplifying hosts” [a species that rapidly replicates copies of the virus and spreads them].” – David Quammen.

    People who do the above care nothing for wildlife and nothing for human life. An argument can be made that some are protein deprived and will desperately eat anything. For the most part though this is untrue in China. Greed, gastronomic and financial, is the main driver of this disgusting and sickening trade.

    The bushmeat trade is a more difficult issue in Africa but there is no excuse for it in China. We should sanction China for bush-meat use and for its complete culpability for creating COVID-19 and its considerable responsibility for spreading it.

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