The Great Melbourne lockdown in retrospect

Now that much of Australia, but not Victoria, is locked down, it seems like a good time to reconsider last year’s epic lockdown in the light of subsequent experience. What have we learned that is useful?

  1. Hotel quarantine doesn’t work. Immense amounts of effort were devoted into working out who made what mistakes in setting up Melbourne quarantine, whether it was bad contracting, security guards fraternsing with the inmates returned travellers, or something else. After a dozen or more leakages, in every state in the country, it’s evident that this effort was a waste of time. The correct response was for the Commonwealth government to accept its constitutional responsibility and set up purpose-built quarantine facilities as fast as possible. A year later, this is finally starting to happen.
  2. Localised lockdowns with arbitrary boundaries don’t work. They failed in Melbourne and again in Sydney. The one success (Avalon) was the exception that proves (tests) the rule: a peninsula, with only a few roads in or out, lots of single family homes for professionals who could work from home.
  3. Lockdown needs to be early. It’s forgotten now, since it doesn’t fit the “Dictator Dan” stereotype, but Andrews waited a long time for full lockdown, though less than in the earlier national lockdown.

What remains to be seen is how much difference contact tracing makes, and whether Delta offsets this. The standard line is that NSW was much better than Vic now, and has improved greatly since then. But they never found the index case for Avalon, or the links between the known source and a couple of mystery cases a few weeks ago. If the current NSW outbreak is controlled quickly, that’s a big win for contact tracing. If not, it might be Delta or maybe tracing was never as good as claimed.

Finally, the obvious point. If Morrison and Hunt hadn’t made a mess of buying vaccines, then played down the urgency of getting vaccinated, we would be a great deal better off.

33 thoughts on “The Great Melbourne lockdown in retrospect

  1. Hotel quarantine doesn’t work. … The correct response was for the Commonwealth government to accept its constitutional responsibility and set up purpose-built quarantine facilities as fast as possible.

    Norman Swan has said much the same several times on the ABC’s Coronacast and seemed convincing to me from the first time.

  2. Finally some well reasoned comments on the pandemic.
    1. the federal government was proposing only to quarantine overseas entrants from places where Covid was out of control. (Managing low numbers of cases coming in). It was only the States of both political persausions that insisted on full Quarantine. This is why they got lumbered with making it happen.
    2. Hotel quarantine was never going to work. Why was the infection control standard not tested and confirmed before implementation. It was rushed because the federal government insisted that people wanting to enter the country be allowed in even though infrastructure to protect the population was not ready, thought through or fit for purpose.
    3. State boundries are not always the best quarantine control points. Cummunities along the NSW QLD and NSW Vic borders suffered unneccessarily because of archaic state boundries. More sensible quarantine borders should have been negotiated not passing though communities but through rural areas.
    4. Purpose built quarantine should have been built. The borders should have been closed until they were ready. A couple of billion for this would have been a fraction of the cost of Job Keeper and other support programs.

  3. ATAGI’s advice on blood clots is gender-neutral. Why? IIRC the very small number of cases with covid vaccines skews heavily towards younger (pre-menopausal) women. The scientists can’t confirm the causality because the number of cases is so low. But if you are going by statistical significance you don’t pause vaccination anyway. If you are going by commonsense prudential hunches you pause AZ only for younger women and give them priority for mRNA vaccines.

  4. If we had to have hotel quarantine, why didn’t we get a few thousand vaccine doses early and vaccinate the quarantine workers and their families?
    Why don’t we have a vaccine lottery, as some US states have done, where each vaccinated person gets a ticket, and someone wins $1M every week. Australians would lap that up.

    Missed opportunities worldwide: challenge trials, first doses first, fractional dosing…

  5. Worth remembering, if we had done a global suppression strategy, there would be no delta and no alpha, as well as far less base variant circulation to jump into countries with low or no case numbers. COVID-19 was a massive failure of global cooperation.

  6. hix,

    You are absolutely right on every point. The neoliberal, capitalist, globalized world led by the USA, EU and UK FAILED at EVERY early challenge of this pandemic. To the extent that statist measures were finally adopted as we got deeper into the crisis, parts of the failed response were finally turned round. Where neoliberal capitalist measures persisted, the failures persisted, as in our failed hotel quarantine policy here in Australia.

    Neoliberal capitalism has excelled at the destruction of state capacity. It also continues as an ideology which refuses to (re)build state capacity. Hence, the Morrison government’s refusal, until now, to even countenance the building of much-needed, national quarantine stations in Australia. The Morrison government drags its heels as much as it can. It continues to fight a strategic and reactionary rear-guard action against the re-building of state capacity. They are hoping for a return to business as usual which will mean the continued concentration of wealth at the top. Morrison hasn’t even realized that even the US, under Biden. is beginning to retrench neoliberalism somewhat and rebuild state capacity.

    Nations need state capacity and sovereign manufacturing capacity which latter of course may be a mix of public and private enterprise. Without these capacities states are not states. They become dysfunctional zones and collapse into anarchy.

    The importance of the modern, democratic state, for all its limitations, is that it is still the only place in a highly imperfect world where a citizen gets some democracy, some justice and some organization of services which assist people who are otherwise neglected. Democracy, justice and effective organization all fail to materialize if the state is starved of funds and capacity, We need to rebuild state capacity.

    We CAN walk and chew gum at the same time. As we fight this pandemic we must also fight the battle to rebuild the state’s ability to do things for its citizens. The two aims go hand in hand. I mean the rebuilding of all important capacities including health, welfare, education, infrastructure, quarantine stations and vaccination programs: all of which private enterprise has not the least interest in doing unless it can sabotage the national interest for very selective private interests.. The failure of the West in this pandemic has been the failure of neoliberal, laissez-faire capitalism.

    Fighting COVID-19 and fighting neoliberalism are the very same fight. They are each a fight against a pernicious virus, one of the biosphere (sphere of life) and one of the noosphere (sphere of ideas).

  7. Gordon, your third point is an important one. The south-east Queensland conurbation effectively includes Tweed Heads and the surrounding suburbs as far south as Pottsville and as far west as Bilambil and Terranora. A sensible NSW-Queensland lockdown line would certainly be south and west of these places and possibly to the south of Byron Bay and to the west of Murwillumbah.

  8. JQ said “Lockdown needs to be early. It’s forgotten now, since it doesn’t fit the “Dictator Dan” stereotype”

    Our Sterotyper in Chief newscorpse…

    “Contrasting NSW and Victoria lockdown coverage reveals much about the politics of COVID – and the media

    “But then “Bad Jon” [Faine] thinks:

    “”What an unbelievable double standard. The reptiles in Melbourne, weaponised by the Murdoch tabloids and Sky News, ripped into Dan Andrews and Brett Sutton every bloody day for weeks on end, repeated the same questions a gazillion times hoping to trip them up, shouted at them, harangued and argued, stopped asking legitimate questions and instead made unfounded assertions and then demanded that mere rumours be proven untrue. How dare they?””

    …” The Murdoch press hasn’t taken this lying down. On Monday, it published a response based on a one-sided presentation of the Faine article and claiming it had aroused “fury” in Sydney

    “The page-one headline in Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph on June 27 was a public-relations triumph for the Coalition governments in Sydney and Canberra: “Smart strain slips the net”. Such a clever virus. Nothing there about the failure to vaccinate airport drivers or make them wear masks.

    “Contrast that with the Herald Sun’s front page when one of Victoria’s lockdowns was announced: “State of disaster”. “6-week extreme lockdown to crush COVID”.
    https://theconversation.com/contrasting-nsw-and-victoria-lockdown-coverage-reveals-much-about-the-politics-of-covid-and-the-media-163482

  9. If people don’t get that we need to completely change our entire political economy system to meet such crises in future then we will be doomed to these endless crises of wars, revolutions, pandemics, global warming, seal level rise and the 6th mass extinction. The path of continued laissez-faire capitalism leads directly to human extinction.

    First they told us we couldn’t change this system because it is the best. Then they told us admittedly this system is leading to catastrophic global warming but we can’t change the system that caused the crisis in mid-crisis. Such absurdities our ruling elites continue to enforce on us. When will wake up?

  10. Anna P. has just dropped a brace of political bombshells which should reverberate through the nation. Everybody needs to get “as mad as hell” especially against the Morrison Govt. First, a purely Qld issue. All quotes from ABC Online.

    “Yesterday, it was revealed the infected hospital worker was positioned just outside the COVID ward at the Prince Charles Hospital, but wasn’t vaccinated. Ms Palaszczuk said there was a direction in place for health workers to be vaccinated but that was not followed. “It wasn’t a guideline, it wasn’t a principle, it was a direction. So there will be a full investigation into that,” she said. The Premier said “someone will be held responsible” for what’s occurred.””

    Now for the national issues:

    “Queensland’s Deputy Premier Steven Miles said genomic sequencing confirmed the hospital worker’s case could be traced to a person in the COVID ward. “[That person in the ward] had been allowed to come and go between Australia and Indonesia repeatedly throughout this pandemic by the Morrison Government,” Mr Miles said. “They are not vaccinated and they have been through our hotel quarantine several times.””

    “Dr Young has stressed she did not want people under the age of 40 to request the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday night. “I do not want under-40s to get AstraZeneca,” she said. “It is rare, but they are at an increased risk of getting the rare clotting syndrome. We’ve seen up to 49 deaths in the UK from that syndrome. “I don’t want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness who, if they got COVID probably wouldn’t die.

    “We’ve had very few deaths due to COVID-19 in Australia in people under the age of 50, and wouldn’t it be terrible that our first 18-year-old in Queensland, who dies related to this pandemic, died because of the vaccine?””

    Other issues not covered in that ABC report but covered in the TV interview of Anna P. are:

    The Federal Govt. has issued thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of short-term visas to Indonesians, Chinese and others to come into Australia since the start of this pandemic.

    The Federal Govt, has now threatened to hide such ABS data from the public (and maybe state governments) in the future, presumably so they can operate these and other policies in secret.

    In Conclusion

    These are all explosive issues and point mainly to the Federal Govt. sabotaging (intentionally or for business lobby interests) the safety and welfare of all Australians, if the allegations as per Anna P. are true This goes close to a kind of duplicitous sabotage against the people and the nation, hiding pertinent facts from the public and making outrageously ill-advised decisions in the face of a pandemic emergency. Many, many people could die as a result of these egregious and duplicitous policies,

    The Morrison govt. must be consigned to the dustbin of history at the next Federal election. If not, we will be in terrible trouble. Morrison is every bit as dishonest as Donald Trump and perhaps even more dangerous for being better presented, more cunning and a much more accomplished liar. I wouldn’t be surprised if Morrison’s next play will be to attempt to steal the coming Federal election, albeit in a more adroit manner than Trump’s crude and blatant attempt.

  11. It might be worth revisiting the ABC’s Four Corners report titled “Vaccinating Australia: What went wrong?”, broadcast on 24 May 2021. From the transcript:

    “DR JOHN GERRARD, DIRECTOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, GOLD COAST UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL:
    I have no doubt that sometime in the next 12 months, this hospital will be, will be used for the purpose for which it’s designed. I think we’ll have small outbreaks, and they’ll get bigger, and eventually, we’ll lose control, and it will spread. That’s happened in the past, it happened, for example, in 2009 with the H1N1, uh, pandemic. And at some point, we will lose control. Once we get above a certain critical number, uh, the virus will spread, and we won’t be able to contain it. But we are in this lucky position, this fortunate position, at the moment, that we have this lull, and this gives us an opportunity to vaccinate the vulnerable, and to protect them for when the virus arrives.

    ADAM HARVEY:
    And in all your pandemic planning over the years, you never anticipated a lull, did you?

    DR JOHN GERRARD, DIRECTOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, GOLD COAST UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL:
    No, we never did. We didn’t expect we would have this, this extraordinary opportunity to vaccinate the population whilst we waited for the virus to arrive. It’s extraordinary gift, and let’s hope we don’t waste it.”
    https://www.abc.net.au/4corners/australias-covid-vaccine-rollout:-what-went-wrong/13357256

    And it seems we did waste it.

  12. The Morrison’s border protection system is a bad joke.

    “Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles said genomic sequencing confirmed the hospital worker’s case could be traced to a person in the COVID ward and called on the federal government to reduce arrivals.

    “[That person in the ward] had been allowed to come and go between Australia and Indonesia repeatedly throughout this pandemic by the Morrison government,” Mr Miles said.

    “They are not vaccinated and they have been through our hotel quarantine several times.

    “The borders are not genuinely closed and these travellers are displacing Australians who are genuinely stranded overseas, genuinely trying to get home.

    “It is not good enough that just because you can afford a business class flight or a charter flight you can breach our closed international borders putting Queenslanders at risk.”” – ABC.

    Morrison’s government couldn’t pour pee out of a boot with instructions on the heel.

  13. This is a national disgrace! I mean the Morrison governments’ “Open The Closed Borders” policy,

    View the video of “Deputy Queensland Premier Steven Miles says the Commonwealth is allowing people to travel overseas and return.”

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-06-30/qld-indonesia-link-to-delta-case-heats-up-arrivals-debate/100254966

    As I say, this is a national disgrace and a national scandal putting many millions of Australians’ lives at serious and unacceptable risk on a clear probability basis. The COVID19 delta variant is now rampant around the world and has been permitted entry into Australia at multiple points by this morally-bankrupt and egregious and disgraceful policy. What is the Morrison government thinking? Are they even thinking? Or do they care so little about ordinary Australians that they would set up an always-going-to-be-imperfect hotel quarantine system and then flood it with extra masses of non-essential travel both ways, including multiple re-entries into Australia. Now that the Qld. state government has outed them they have threatened to stop publishing the ABS data. Welcome to authoritarianism Liberal-National Coalition style.

    I am as mad as hell about this and every Australian should be The Morrison government is SABOTAGING Australia and putting all Australians at unnecessary risk just for their rich mates and the precious, self-aggrandizing big business lobby. For a democratically elected leader to this, it is a kind of treachery against the people. It is really disturbing stuff. Add to that the Morrison governments’ incompetent hotel quarantine strategy, their dragging their heels about creating real quarantine stations and the abysmal failure of the vaccination roll-out and we have a perfect storm almost DESIGNED to make Australia suffer a runaway pandemic.

    If not for the sterling efforts of the state governments (ALL state governments) we would long ago have looked like USA, UK, Brazil or India in COVID-19 terms. Morrison may still achieve his apparent objective which seems to be to promote the pandemic in Australia. This government HAS to be thrown out next election. Heck, they don’t want to stop climate change, they don’t want to stop pandemics. What do that want to do that is actually positive, democratic. logical and scientific? Their behavior defies all reason.

  14. Before commenting on the specific items of JQ’s post, I’d like to get something off my chest, which has annoyed me for a long time: Journalists with expertise in political conflict reporting (or creating) writing stories in the media on the coronavirus, using the same methods as in their proverbial day job (eg focusing on Dan vs Gladys and ‘got you’ arguments that make no sense in the context of a pandemic). They introduced numerous confusions and inaccuracies regarding scientific information, local information as well as data items from other countries, picked out of context. And then some of them ‘report’ that the public is confused. IMHO, the smh seemed to have learned over time that this political stuff is not a good idea and they started publishing article written by a health professional (virologist, epidemiologist, ….) every so often – seemingly in an attempt to clean up the mess of confusions left by their political writers. Then a flyer arrived in my letterbox, authored by Clive Palmer re vaccination and then a Professor from the UNSW Business School writes what I would call ‘free speech’ behavioural economics. Against this stuff, I find Gladys’ and Dan’s (and his Deputy’s) daily announcements a relief.

    Hotel quarantine. At least initially, hotel quarantine addressed two issues, namely the quarantining of overseas arrivals (public health) and the empty hotels (commercial loss minimisation). Notwithstanding the ‘errors’ in the system and the associated usage of resources devoted to working out who made what mistake and where, I would suggest that the need for purpose-built quarantine facilities depends on the number of people who are allowed to enter Australia from foreign countries that did not or could not pursue an elimination (‘zero covid’) strategy. Hopefully, Queensland and Victoria and WA will be able to take more overseas arrivals once they have purpose-built quarantine facilities. NSW has taken too many for too long.

    Localised lockdowns. Yes, in the case of Avalon the localised lockdown worked for the reasons stated in the post. (According to local news, the locals didn’t mind either to have their patch of Greater Sydney to themselves for some time.) There were a few people outside the Northern Beaches who had to isolate because they had visited ‘exposure sites’ prior to the lockdown. The weather helped, too. In general, the notion of ‘local’ needs to be interpreted in context, which happens to be dynamic in this pandemic. It could mean a State, it could mean part of a city or all of a city and its surrounds. In could mean a country. In a sense total closure of international borders to passenger air and sea traffic is a form of lockdown.

    Lockdown needs to be early. This is a difficult one. Yes, as JQ writes, “It’s forgotten now, since it doesn’t fit the “Dictator Dan” stereotype, but Andrews waited a long time for full lockdown, though less than in the earlier national lockdown.” Setting aside the apparent politicking involved in the case of Victoria, it is not always obvious what is early, given the dynamic of the pandemic regarding geographic spread, variants, and other parameter. IMHO, all lockdowns in Australia have been early when compared to New York, the UK, India, Brazil. In other words, only in extreme cases where exponential growth of infections is ignored by policy makers does it become obvious that a lockdown measure was ‘too late’ or not early enough.

  15. Ernestine Gross,

    Journalism standards are indeed lamentably low. They are once again missing the key points. Hotel quarantining was an improvised and very imperfect solution as you correctly point out. In that case, part of our national ring-fencing needed to be about limited or metered returns to Australia of Australian citizens and long-term residents wanting to come back to Australia. In addition, we needed a more rapid vaccine rollout and a rapid creation of proper quarantine stations. The Morrison government has fallen down in the COORDINATION of all these approaches together.

    These are the ways the Morrison federal government could have done much better:

    (a) Immediately implemented a quarantine station building program (as soon as Italy’s first wave example showed the world what was coming in early 2020). I predicted almost from the outset (from reading epidemiologist and geneticist reports and opinions) that this pandemic could have a sting in its tail, that it could run longer than expected and that we will face more pandemics in the future. The quarantine stations will not go to waste, nor would new hospitals. It’s sporting stadiums that will go to waste (unless we turn them into vaccine hubs and clinics).

    (b) Tailored the returns home to Australia to fit the limited capacity and quality of hotel quarantining.

    (c) Bought sufficient rights to all major vaccines in development as soon as possible in a risk hedging manner. Nobody knew early on which vaccines (or vaccine design approaches) were going to work or work best. They should have taken the approach of over-hedging and over-ordering, if anything, and note that excesses, if any, could be distributed to PNG and the south pacific in addition to targeted aid doses to those countries.

    (d) Set up mass vaccination hubs.

    (e) Finally and crucially, not permitted people to exit and return multiple times for “business meeting” reasons. And also not start bringing in temporary visa holders in prematurely but rather reserving entry for citizens and long term residents only. This last is another scandal the journalists are failing to highlight so far. It was in Milne’s speech which I linked to in my second but last post above (IIRC).

    What the Morrison government has done is FAIL to understand the profound dangers of this pandemic and then FAIL to coordinate a response which ticked all the boxes. There is no single silver arrow to this pandemic. Rather we needed a quiver full of arrows (measures) all targeted and all coordinated. The most egregious failure by far in Australia is that of the Morrison government, just like they have failed to starting dealing with CO2 emissions and have failed to deal with our bush-fire dangers and aftermaths. We are cursed with the most inept, do-nothing federal government possible at this most critical juncture in Australia’s and in global civilization’s history with regard to climate change, pandemics and all their linked crises.

  16. State Governments administer hospital systems. The Commonwealth Government doesn’t. The State Governments are better geared to deliver comprehensive vaccination programs. The Commonwealth should have entrusted responsibility for the delivery of vaccination to the States, and taken responsibility itself for quarantine. Instead, the Commonwealth took responsibility for vaccination programs and left the States with the responsibility for quarantine.

    Federation: what a good idea!

  17. J-D,

    Federation IS a good idea IF done well. Australia’s federation system and constitution are very good, although not perfect. The states handled their own responsibilities very well PLUS they handled the quarantine responsibilities the duck-shoving Federal govt thrust upon them. The Federal Govt has constitutional responsibility for quarantine. They didn’t meet it in terms of starting to build quarantine stations from about May 2020. The probable need was already obvious then and epidemiologists were already calling for that.

    If we had had a competent Federal Govt, this whole mess would have been averted. The states have performed very well. The Federal Govt. did almost everything badly and continue to do so. Our Federal system cannot be blamed for a specific Federal Govt’s failure.

    I guess “Federation: what a good idea!” was a throwaway line if meant sarcastically. You might not have meant much by it. However, I disagree strongly. Our Federal system is far better and generates more true democracy at extra levels than say the centralized UK system. The UK had a disaster due to an incompetent national govt. We have (so far but are now are on the brink) averted a disaster BECAUSE of our state government systems and DESPITE a dreadfully inept Federal Govt. which duck-shoves and refuses to take any action at all.

    Morrison is playing partisan politics lauding Gladys B. to the skies and brick-batting every Labor Premier no matter what. This is when every state has done well in the main but also made some slip-ups. He is playing a small target strategy by forcing the states to take just about all the risks and thus all the criticism when it comes. Morrison is trying to sail above everything by doing as little as possible and staying squeaky clean as he sees it. Clearly, power (and money) sill mean more to him and his government than the lives of all ordinary Australians who are significantly vulnerable and that is a number in the millions. Morrison and his government are despicable. Only the state governments have saved us thus far (plus a heap of luck, island continent, dispersed population and all that).

  18. Federation IS a good idea IF done well.

    It is 1899 or 1900. You are planning on voting ‘YES’ in the referendum on Federation (over 400,000 people voted YES). I am thinking of voting ‘NO’ (over 150,000 people voted NO). Give me a reason why I should change my mind.

  19. EG, agree on the comment about gotcha journalism.

    As for purpose-built quarantine, it seemed to me—a year ago, now—that hotel quarantine in capital cities, in their CBDs, was an outright failure of risk analysis. If the infection were inadvertently spread to workers, and they then went about their daily routines, like shopping, gym, etc., then the whole CBD and some suburbs would be in immediate danger. The intricate social and physical web of capital cities means that once a fugitive positive case is loose, it can spread like wild fire. We now have a year of data on precisely this issue, and so far there have been almost 30 fugitive cases, resulting in many shut downs or severe restrictions. The economic cost of each shut down is cumulative, and sooner or later, it will effect long term economic behaviour of people, based on their sense of the relative safety of certain venues or activities. Online shopping ameliorates some of that, but cafes and restaurants that have high density seating cannot survive on missing the lunch time trade, the foot traffic.

    If we had used what we knew a year ago, we would have seen that about the only reliable pathway for getting a lot of overseas people back to Australia, and for having some international travel, was to establish the best, out of town, facilities possible in the shortest time possible. We could have started off with initially small facilities that were designed for scaling up, and scaled them up as we increased the cap on overseas arrivals. I would argue that we had more than enough data by June 2020 to know we would need quarantine for the foreseeable future, even if the (back then potential) vaccines worked, for even if we could vaccinate Australia’s population inside of a year, there was no way that would be true of all of the rest of the world; therefore, quarantine was obviously going to be necessary for at least another year, probably two or three.

    Given the enormous sum of money spent on the first shut downs, the JobKeeper and JobSeeker funds, among other things, I am mighty surprised at how little interest in spending on purpose-built international traveller quarantine facilities there has been. If it cost three or four billion, that’s be a rounding error on what was blown on keeping businesses afloat, or keeping people employed. Besides, it would give tradies even more work, and would employ specially trained staff for running the facilities.

  20. Oh, and with the higher transmissibility of the delta variant, the risk exposure is evidently even greater than with the ooriginal coronavirus.

  21. Don,

    You are making good, logical and scientific sense. It’s a pity our Gliberal-Nationaliist COAL-ition does not display even one hundredth of that type of good sense. We are not safe while those idiots are in charge.

  22. I strongly agree with Ernestine Gross regarding the media coverage of the pandemic. As with other issues (notably environmental issues) which the political process has to deal with, but which are not simply “political issues”, it is being reported through the adversarial “game frame”. Worse, it is being reported by people whose professional training and background does not equip them to understand, let alone effectively communicate, the scientific and quantitative dimensions of the issue.

  23. The current experience of Israel is a warning to us all. This ABC item by By Nick Dole and Phil Hemingway, in Jerusalem, gives some background. It also demonstrates that Dole and Hemingway do not understand the full implications of what they are reporting or else that thier editor did not give them enough space.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-07-03/delta-spreading-in-israel-but-vaccines-prevent-serious-cases/100249416

    Key points claimed or reported are:

    (1) The “high vaccination rates mean Israelis stay free”. This is a headline claim, an erroenous or incomplete claim and just maybe was written by the editor not the reporters. By “free” is meant “free to do what they like by virtue of not being in lock-down. But the vaccination rates do not mean this. The 60% of the population vaccinated is too low to prevent a new infection wave. It is just and the of the decisions of politicians which mean Israelis are free to go out. The phrase “Israelis stay free” certainly does not mean they stay free of disease.

    (2) 60% of the population is fully vaccinated. This is not nearly enough to stop new outbreaks. For a highly infectious strain of disease vaccination rates must be above at least 90%. This article from Aucklind 1 News, reports:

    “NZ needs 97% vaccination rate for herd immunity against (the) most infectious Covid-19 variants. New modelling shows 97 per cent of Kiwis need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before New Zealand can achieve herd immunity from the most infectious virus variants and remove public health restrictions.”

    So there you have it. we will need close to 100% vaccination rate to ensure hered immunity. This rate will be close to impossible to attain without a fully mandatory vaccination. This is something we will have to seriously think about.

    (3) 50% of the vaccinated in Israel can still get COVID-19.

    “Under this new Delta variant, [in Israel] we’re seeing potentially 50 per cent of new cases being people who have been vaccinated,” – Scott Morrison. When Scotty admits a fact like this you know he can’t avoid it but is preparing to spin it.

    “The vaccinated people who are infected are almost never hospitalised,” said Professor Nadav Davidovitch, an infectious diseases specialist from Ben Gurion University. “You have a reduction [in severe cases] of 90 to 95 per cent.”

    The reduction in severe cases is very good news in itself. But 50% of new cases being (fully) vaccinated people is really bad news. It means the virus can spread, most likely, from at least some vaccinated people. This is the perfect mechanism for the evolution of vaccine resistance in the virus. It’s almost London to a brick that this will happen.

    (4) “The (new) outbreak appears to have emerged in schools, where unvaccinated children brought the virus home and spread it among adults.

    This is bad news too. Children can catch it and spread it, even in an adult-vaccinated population. There will be some bad child reactions to the current variants. They will not be hamless all the time to all children. A further concern is that it could evolve to become even more infectious as it spreads through children and it could evolve to become more harmful to children although evoultion to become less harmful is also possible and hopefully, maybe even likely.

    Overall, there are still many unknowns. The new bad or disturbing facts still outweigh the good news facts. The Israel example does nNOT mean we can do open slather opeing up even when we have 95% of more adult vaccination rates. There are still dangers. We will still have to change, forever probably,the ways we live, travel and interact. That will properly mean continued travel restrictions, continued mask wearing, continued caution and continued social distancing to sensible extent. Mass gatherings for frivolous reasons like sport, recreation, concerts, carousing and so on will likely have to remain off limits forever or be profoundly changed in how they are carried out. This will not stop you from going jogging, cycling or fishing with 5 of your mates.

    If we insist on a return to the full-on “old normal” we will be locking in the elderly and the vulnerable to permanent home detention for safety even when vaccinated. That will be the only way for them to be properly safe. Vaccination alone will not be enough. We will need many more complementary stratagems working as a comprehensive system of protection for all.

  24. The number of people that are too dumb to get vaccinated in Israel and the US is astonishing. Russia and Romania are even worse. Russian leadership has to take a large share of the blame for this with the pointless childish lie campaigns against western vaccines that were more successful in undermining trust in all vaccines in Russia than anything else. Not looking forward to how this will play out in other nations once vaccine supply is not the constraining factor any more.

  25. It turns out the reason Australia is not being protected by by an overstretched hotel quarantine system is that the Federal Government is letting virtually anyone leave the country with the right to be able to return through the hotel quarantine system.

    Further, I believe that the Federal Government is picking up the tab for the quarantine. I understand the Government (in reality us) paying for hotel quarantine for those stuck overseas at the start of the epidemic. But not for those who volutarily left the country.

  26. Gordon,

    I made your first point a while back in this thread. The idiotically doctrinaire neoliberal government of Scott Morrison until very recently has been overloading the leaky hotel quarantine system and refusing to build quarantine stations. He only changed tack under enormous state govt. and people power pressure. The Feds have also badly fumbled the vaccine rollout so that its pace is glacial. The Morrison government is dangerous to our health. They still haven’t done anything about climate change, bush-fire damage and national bush-fire prevention and fire-fighting. They are the most do-nothing government I have ever seen. Their reluctance to spend money or take action on these critical, existential crisis issues amounts to severe dereliction of duty of the most egregious kind. If Morrison were a General in any kind of functional army he would be court-martialed for gross incompetence and dereliction of duty. We will need all the fundamental natural laws of the Cosmos to help us if Morrison stays in government…. and they are not lining up to help us currently so we had better toss Morrison and the pro-climate change, pro-pandemic, pro-disaster, pro-collapse COALition .out of office.

  27. Tony Blakely’s latest modelling indicates good contact tracing important for control. Blakely’s group has been modelling the way out of the COVID crisis and he has been surprised to find that good contact tracing was a very important variable. He also emphasises the importance of multiple control levels on the way out. With the Delta strain having a reproduction rate of 5, vaccination alone is not enough to get control, but with good contract tracing and strategic use of masks, he argues that a 70% vaccination rate for the whole population (including children) is enough to open up safely.
    This is not to argue against your point John that the Federal Government relied too much on contact tracing for control at the expense of effective quarantine facilities. But if Blakely is right, then effective quarantine plus good contact tracing plus earlier vaccination would have got us to control much much earlier.

  28. John Goss,

    I agree with what you say, except that a New Zealand study shows a nation like New Zealand will need a vaccination rate of 97%. I am not sure if this is above the age of 15. Maybe it is. Imagine what crowded nations will need. Bottom line is that vaccination rates under the high 90s simply will not cut it. This virus is mutating rapidly out of all control globally and becoming;

    (a) more contagious; and
    (b) more effective at immune escape and vaccine escape.

    It is even showing some signs of becoming more lethal. This is generally held to not often happen in standard virology and epidemiology but there may well be special factors which permit it in this very massive pandemic. These factors are;

    (1) the sheer size of the human population;
    (2) the sheer eventual size of the pandemic (it will be massive in the billions);
    (3) and the general chance for a rapidly mutating mRNA virus to freak-evolve a “variant from hell”.

    My opinion now is that this will indeed happen. There will eventually be a variant or variants “from hell”. Such variants, as a collection and maybe even some individually will possess and cross-share genes to have;

    (I) high contagiousness;
    (II) high lethality;
    (III) high “long covid” characteristics;
    (IV) high kill rates across ALL age groups, including babies and children.

    This is what happens when free market capitalist economics rules over science, ethics and democracy. We will be struggling in a vaccine versus viral-genetics arms race and many major regions of the world will lose this race badly. The most advanced nations may even lose this race. The complete close down of all global non-essential travel indefinitely, including migration and refugee movements will prove absolutely necessary. I will call it now. This virus plus other opportunist diseases in the chaos plus runaway climate change etc. will kill billions of humans before 2050. This is IT. It is all over for the bulk of the human race. Pockets of us may survive if we lock down in secure regional enclaves. It’s doubtful how any significant civilization can survive.

    More to the point, there is nothing we can do except try to survive. Yes, get fully vaccinated.Yes, get your boosters when availbale. Yes, build quarantine stations and then lock the country down totally except for returning citizens and full time residents. Allow only super-essential travel overseas as in essential trade, diplomacy and military. No, do not permit anyone to leave Australia on any other pretext except under the proviso that they will NEVER be permitted to return. Make vaccination compulsory without a medical exemption. Make mask wearing compulsory outside the home or beyond private land property except when exercising outdoors a least 10 meters from people other than household members.. Shut down indoor public entertainment venues until Australia achieves 100% eradication.

    Or ignore these stringent measures and become a collapsing disaster area and petrie dish like the UK. Without hyper-stringent measures collapse is assured.

  29. Gladdys Berijiklian’s presser today was a worry .She appeared to be floating the idea that there wont be another extension to their lockdown . It was too late and not hard enough and testing numbers are too low. Also compliance is lacking and a fragile thing anyway .This is probably due to Gladdys attitude to date ,even today defeatist talk of living with the virus undermined the effort. Unlike dictator Dan she cut questions off early as per usual and walked away. Sydney should not get to decide on behalf of the nation as a whole. There is a direct comparison with the situation Melbourne just stopped in two weeks.

  30. Yes, we are doomed. (Rushing out tomorrow to get first vaccination which was delayed due to major eye surgery.)

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