Masks (repost from a month ago)

Now that the World Health Organization has finally endorsed a recommendation for wearing masks in public, it’s time for Australia to do the same.

The most important case is that of public transport including air travel. Urban public transport is vital, but until we take the necessary steps on masks, we will be stuck with recommendations to avoid peak hour travel, guaranteeing a return to private cars and congestions

The airlines have been the biggest transporters of the pandemic and have continued to behave irresponsibly, packing planes as full as possible without any requirement for masks. It’s time for government to step in and order them to require masks as a condition of travel.

Update: Obviously, the Victorian outbreak has increased the urgency of this. The Rail, Tram and Bus union has called for compulsory masks on public transport, but we will probably need to go to a general requirement for masks in all public places

UQ and China

A colleague wrote to me today asking about the case of Drew Pavlou, a student suspended by the University of Queensland for two years as a result of actions in the course of protests against the policies of the Chinese government in Hong Kong. Here’s my reply

I don’t know any more about it than what I read in the papers, but it certainly looks bad for UQ. To the extent that anything has come out about the reasons for suspending the student, they seem to be political stunts that are fairly typical of student activists. A sensible university management would ignore this kind of thing, not make a martyr of the student.
As you say, the more the Chinese regime deteriorates into a personal dictatorship, the more problematic it is to bend (or be seen to bend) to pressure in matters of this kind.

Can we beat influenza

Following my post on pandemic whataboutery, James Joyner had some interesting thoughts, noting that

Interestingly, Quiggin doesn’t circle back to the third example from his introduction: influenza. Will Americans, having been conditioned to lockdowns during this pandemic, be more likely to implement them again for lesser ones? Or will this be a Never Again moment?

I was thinking over a post on this topic when I read that New Zealand is planning to use the testing contact tracing system set up for the coronavirus to stamp out sexually transmitted infections. So, the idea is obviously in the air.

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Sandpit

A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on. The last got clogged with random conspiracy theories.

To be clear, the sandpit is for regular commenters to pursue points that distract from regular discussion, including conspiracy-theoretic takes on the issues at hand. It’s not meant as a forum for visiting conspiracy theorists, or trolls posing as such.

Servants of three masters

Universities are the servants of three masters: the state governments that provide the statutory basis, the federal government which provides most of the funding for research and domestic students and the international market.
* The Australian public are not among those to whom the universities see themselves as owing a duty
* These multiple allegiances create great opportunities for the managers of the university to pursue their own interests, playing off the various masters against each other
* It all goes bad when the international market fails

All of this can be seen at work with the refusal of the University of Melbourne to enter into an agreement with the NTEU, saying that its statutory obligations (presumably to the state government) prohibit any element of joint management.

The need for action results from the collapse of the international market, and the refusal of the third master (the Morrison government) to accept its obligation to educate Australians. Instead, they offered a “rescue” package, consisting of a promise not to impose even further cuts this year, if domestic enrolments fell.

Lots of people like working from home

For a long time, I’ve used Twitter to publish links to posts on this blog. But a lot of what I write now is on Twitter first. So, I’ve started using a tool called Spooler to turn Twitter threads into blog posts. Here’s the first one

According to Gallup 62 per cent of currently employed US workers have worked from home during the crisis, and 59 per cent of those would prefer to continue doing so “as much as possible”

Important qualifications:
* not the whole workforce, since so many who do in-person jobs are now unemployed
* binary choice – alternative is “Return to working at your office as much as you previously did”

Still suggests that something like 30 per cent of workforce want to work from home, and can do so reasonably effectively. Will be hard for employers to drag them all back to the office, especially with continued need for social distancing.