Australia’s COVID plan was designed before we knew how Delta would hit us …

… We need more flexibility. That’s the headline for my latest piece in The Conversation (with Richard Holden and Steven Hamilton)


In these rapidly changing times it makes no sense to fix a policy plan based on a months-old model.

We need to respond flexibly to new evidence as it comes to hand. We need to consider all kinds of data, including new evidence on the transmissibility of the virus, estimates of the likely uptake of vaccines, and observations on the way restrictions reduce movement around our cities.

What we don’t need is more speculation about the hypothetical dates and vaccination rates at which various restrictions will be lifted (or perhaps, looking at overseas experience, reimposed). Let’s focus on the facts as they are now.

15 thoughts on “Australia’s COVID plan was designed before we knew how Delta would hit us …

  1. Many people including quite intelligent ones, could not understand why “Novel”
    Coronavirus meant eg, that this meant “Novel” as in completely new and not previously extant in the form identified.
    Like the Star Trekkers, we were unexpectedly, as is always the way for complacent people, ambushed in something parallel to,

    “Space, the Last Frontier…seek out new life
    To boldly go where non one has been before”.

    The relationship between time and event has changed, as no doubt happened during WW2, although our problems are relatively minor in comparison.

    Time and space have been revoked and all have found themselves in a new universe where the world is no longer flat, Aristotelian and new heliocentrisms had to be coped with.

    In other words, nobody knew the actual infection cycles, how many people it could kill, mutations capability and other essential features.

    Trump and others inflamed the situation, as did various allied religious nutters and self serving shock jocks and other rogues, preventing often for very base motives the implementing of steps that slow or prevent the spread of infections.

    For these deranged and wicked people, the affects could have rivalled the Black Plague of the fourteenth century for all they cared.

    This perverting of mass reasoning feeds in to even the most recent efforts to come up with rational ways. Instead, people have been taught to whinge about lockdowns and masks as hobblings of “freedom”, the persistence of nonsenses concerning microchips and the fatally idiot commendations to use Ivermectin (intestinal worm drench)or Chloroquin, or even various other nostrums evolving through from the Dark Ages surfacing nowadays.

    Those of us who decided to use AZ on what seemed an educated hunch are alive to tell the tale, but it is a bit of a giggle to witness propositions that neurotics driven by propaganda nonsenses receive money for vaccinating, for doing what others have done for themselves and out of consideration for for others.

  2. “We need to respond flexibly to new evidence as it comes to hand.”

    In other words, given the realities of our political leadership: we’re all doomed

  3. General Frewin knows
    “> No plan survives contact with the enemy.
    > No plan survives first contact with the enemy”…(quoteinvestigator)

    … why then is he not instructing a change to covid response plans, in light of new Delta strain knowledge?

    Crikey says appointing military a ‘soft coup’. Rubbish. This is Morrison’s ‘coup de blame’ – He Frewin carried out the plan, but actually Frewin has probably been overridden by ‘the government ‘. If Frewin is just for looks & logistics, Frewin is compromised as a true defence professional and needs to go. Plenty of other lackeys. Gen Frewin, another Scomo lackey.

    “The softest coup: COVID-19 and the khakification of Australian leadership

    “Faced with an international crisis and short on ideas, politicians and bureaucrats have defaulted to putting the army in charge, quietly ushering in the ‘khakification’ of Australian leadership.

    “March last year, when COVID-19 was first stopping life dead in its tracks, Scott Morrison declared war with the virus. “We are in a war against this virus and all Australians are enlisted to do the right thing,” the prime minister said.

    “Throughout the pandemic, Morrison has returned to the language of conflict to frame Australia’s struggles with the coronavirus, language that’s been picked up by state and territory leaders. And it’s been matched by a militarisation of so much of our response to the virus.”

    “> No plan survives contact with the enemy.
    > No plan survives first contact with the enemy”.

    “This saying has been attributed to Prussian Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke the Elder and Prussian General Carl von Clausewitz. 
    “In 1961 “The Desert Generals” by Correlli Barnett contained a concise instance ascribed to Moltke: (7)

    “. . .Rommel took Moltke’s view that “no plan survives contact with the enemy”. If his plan got him into battle, it was enough. After that, Rommel would fight by ear and eye and tactical sense, like a duellist.”

  4. Closed loop policies relying on feedback rules outperform pre-announced open loop policies in most situations simply because the policy uses more available information and this matters when the future is uncertain. If things run astray of course you change your policy stance – basically in almost any policy area (an exception might be in maintaining a credible monetary policy). And closed loop policies have been employed around Australia throughout the pandemic. The current Victorian 7 day lockdown is now in its, I think, sixth week.

    Apart from WA and perhaps the Queensland fanatics no-one has set policy rigidly in advance. The Federals have a Roadmap policy that will not be adhered to if things turn bad enough. The States have said that they will go back into lockdown if hospitals are overrun with patients etc.

  5. Enjoyed KT2’s read.
    As that famous Lennonist philosopher is said to have said,
    “Life is what happens while you’re planning other things”.

  6. Harry said “The Federals have a Roadmap policy that will not be adhered to if things turn bad enough. “. Badly enough – whoa!

    Harry & KT2 take a bad enough road trip.
    We’re on the road. Doherty drew a map. With one variable re the delta nemisis. Limited by government scope, not nemisis scope.

    We now have 3 variables known for 3 weeks Harry.

    We are in car arguing. I’m not sure the map will save us from memisis. Harry says “Roadmap policy that will not be adhered to if things turn bad enough.”

    Doherty drew another plan without variables 2 & 3. Still within government scope, not nemisis scope which is unlimited.

    Where are we Harry? Nemisis is whispering “35k cases in UK today! And I killed a thousand plus”.

    We arrived.
    The sign reads “Badly Enough”.

    We’re on… a road to somewhere Harry, but you seem to be on the oil tanker, whilst I want to be on a Ducati Monster.

    Talking Heads – Road to Nowhere (Official Video)

    Someone may convert riad trip into credit and debt terminology. Harry?

  7. It seems to me that a sizeable proportion of the population are over it and want to break out, regardless. The local cops are handing out hefty fines for browsing or for buying non essential purchases in Bunnings but the car park is full as couples

    I know that in my regional location there are people who pride themselves on the infallibility of their argument and want to push ahead. Committee zoom meetings of one of our clubs has proved to be an exhausting battle between the blowhards and the lockdowners.

    It’s very hard to act with restraint when you have this ‘freedom day’ being tantalising dangled yet vaccination has been difficult to obtain.

  8. We need to re-imagine and retool our entire civilization but people just want to get back to “normal”; meaning blind consumerist normal with no fundamental changes. Or do they?

    It seems to me our mainstream media are giving a very false impression of what people really want. The stories the MSM promote are almost entirely about what business wants which is to open up no matter what the human cost. Yet people seem to be voting with their behaviors. NSW could not have controlled the Delta pandemic to the point that they have done without a lot of people complying and even over-complying. Given the NSW government’s woeful performance and the overwhelmed nature of their tracing. only mass compliance and indeed mass over-compliance can explain the flattening of the curve. I have been very surprised and it restores my faith (a bit) in 85% of the population.

    Why 85%? A booking agent commented that even a few local un-traced cases (to a city I guess) are enough to reduce event and theater bookings by 50% in two days and by 85% by the end of the week. That seems to me to be like a straw poll which indicates that about 85% of the population are sensible and vote sensibly with their own behaviors.

    The people we see on the media all the time are the other 15%. They are the rednecks, the criminals and those business owners (not all) who want to open up regardless. It’s interesting to note the company that some business owners keep.

  9. Yes, flexibility pays off, but so does planning.
    It’s interesting to look at the behaviour of other countries further along in vaccination uptake, and how they have fared. The UK made a commitment to opening up and pretty much stuck to it – this was rash considering the signs of Delta’s greater infectiousness were already apparent. By contrast, Portugal’s nasty experience with the Alpha variant led to a determined and successful vaccination campaign and a disciplined restraint in opening up which have resulted in it being properly prepared for Delta and handling it well – and through their ongoing adherence to number limits and masks indoors, they continue to confound the Latin stereotype with their collective social discipline.
    Given our high level of suppression to date, relative to almost all other countries, the shock of a sudden leap in infections and deaths when NSW opens up may come soon enough to allow other States and Territories to adjust their plans, and motivate the laggards to get our national vaccination percentage to the Portuguese level.
    Re the 15%, I guess the theorists are examining this phenomenon in terms of ‘free riding’, ‘moral hazard’ etc. Comparable to smoking in some ways.

  10. Portugese vaccination rates will not happen on a volunatary basis in Australia, that is almost a certainity. High standard you picked there.

  11. Best Vaccination rate in Australia seems to be ANU. Brian Schmidt on Q& A said expected rate by start of 2022 around 95% staff & students.

    Sectors requiring non viral vector workers – health, aged care etc – when mandated or regulated will see rates rising as workers realise their hip pocket will be effected, overcoming their many flawed and biased reason for not getting a vaccine.

    Only a tiny portion left to grumble in the dark. Yet they will continue to have an outsized effect on society.

  12. hix: – “Portugese vaccination rates will not happen on a volunatary basis in Australia, that is almost a certainity. High standard you picked there.

    Give it time.

    Per Reuters COVID-19 Vaccination tracker, as at Sep 24:
    * Portugal: 86.8% of population has been given at least one dose of vaccine
    * Australia: 62.2% of population has been given at least one dose of vaccine

    Per the Australian Government COVID-19 Vaccination Rollout, for population aged 16 years and older, for at least ONE DOSE, as at Sep 24:
    National: _ _ 75.4%
    ACT: _ _ _ _ 85.9%
    NSW: _ _ _ _85.2%
    Victoria: _ _ 76.9%
    Tasmania: _ 74.3%
    SA: _ _ _ _ _ 65.6%
    NT: _ _ _ _ _ 64.9%
    Queensland: 63.4%
    WA: _ _ _ _ _60.0%

    Those people who have had a first dose will almost invariably get their second dose.

    I’d suggest the delay in getting the Australian vaccination rollout rate up, until recently, has been due to limited access to Pfizer. For rural and regional areas, availability of doctors to administer vaccines (and restricted vaccine supplies) has suppressed rollout rates, with reported long waiting times (i.e. many weeks to months) to get a dose. – see the ABC report headlined COVID-19 vaccination rollout highlights stark reality of regional GP shortages.

    Fortunately for me, I had the opportunity to utilise a walk-in pop-up vaccination clinic for a first dose, about a fortnight ago in my LGA. Over the 3 days the clinic operated, a reported 1,631 local residents received their first dose. The clinic will be back in a fortnight (to administer a second dose only) over a 3-day period. IMO, based on what I’d witnessed, if the clinic had operated longer, even for just another day (or two), I think the demand would have been there, and another 500+ vaccinations per day could have been served.

    Since Sep 13, the Australian Government has lowered the age of eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccination from 16+ to 12 years and older.

    I think the magnitude of the ‘die-hard’ anti-vax group in Australia is overblown. We’ll see what will happen in the next few months.

  13. Moderna please.

    “Effectiveness of mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine among U.S. Health Care Personnel

    …” Vaccine effectiveness for partial vaccination was
    77.6% … with the BNT162b2 vaccine (Pfizer–BioNTech) and
    88.9% (Moderna);

    for complete vaccination, vaccine effectiveness was
    88.8% Pfizer
    96.3% Moderna

    Vaccine effectiveness was similar in subgroups defined according to age (<50 years or ≥50 years), race and ethnic group, presence of underlying conditions, and level of patient contact. Estimates of vaccine effectiveness were lower during weeks 9 through 14 than during weeks 3 through 8 after receipt of the second dose, but confidence intervals overlapped widely. "…

  14. This morning on Radio 2GB’s Ray Hadley Morning Show, Westmead Institute for Medical Research Clinical Professor Graeme Stewart told host Ray Hadley to call on all Australians to trust biological scientists the same way we trust aviation engineers. Every percentage of the population vaccinated above 90 drastically reduces deaths and the risk of lockdowns.

    From the podcast (from time interval 3:28):

    So let me just talk, if I can about a couple of other things that have clearly emerged as reasons for particularly younger people being hesitant. And the first is, um, this idea that the vaccine hasn’t been around long enough and maybe because they’re younger, you know, in years to come, there’ll be side effects. Two things I’d say to that. The first is, yes, it’s only been, this technology has only been used for a COVID vaccine for a year, but the technology’s been used in cancer medicine for more than a decade. The second thing I’d say is that, um, the scientists who developed this would never have got these mRNA vaccines through, through um, regulatory agencies if there was any plausibility to long-term side effects. They’re designed to ensure there’re not side effects short-term, and especially for long-term, ’cause you can’t test long-term straight-up. You know, when, when the A380 planes went up in the sky and we all said oh, they’re much quieter and they’re much better than the 747s, nobody said I’m going to wait for 30 years for these planes to be up in the sky. We trusted the engineers and scientists that they wouldn’t fall out of the sky in 5, 10 or 15 years’ time. For some reason, we don’t seem to have the same trust for biological scientists…

    Prof Stewart also talks about the death rate attributed to the vaccine – fewer than 10 people so far – less than those that die from wasp and bee stings in the same period. 10,000s of Australians will die from other causes that just happen to have been vaccinated at around the same time.

    Prof Stewart says for best estimates for herd immunity requires at least 85% of Australia’s total population to be vaccinated. That means 99% of eligible Australians (12 years and older) need to be vaccinated. It’s suggested 2% of Australians are difficult to budge anti-vaxxers.

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