Will An Actual Vaccination Conspiracy In Australia Backfire Internationally?

Politicians who don’t buy into the conspiracy, face attacks and denials.

Secret Covid-19 Future: The Truth From a politician?

It seems in Australia we have a genuine conspiracy to deceive the public. This is a conspiracy in two steps, with many conspirators only committed to the more benign step one, but likely being drawn into the more worrying step2.

  • The Two Step Conspiracy: The People Don’t Know What’s Best.
  • The Big Secret Underlying the Conspiracy.
  • Fact Check: Zero-Covid-19 and Immunity Level Comparisons.
    • Zero-Covid-19 or “covid-zero”.
    • Immunity Level Comparisons Fact Check: Australia, NZ, US, UK.
  • Reality of the Choice for Australasia: Rocks and Hard Places.
    • Option 1: Use Reduce Transmissions to Improve “zero-covid-19” strategy.
    • Option 2: Use reduced hospitalisation as a result of vaccinations to then “live with Covid-19”.
    • Confirmation Bias And The Flood of Information.
  • A Conspiracy, really? Who are the conspirators and why?
  • International Consequences and A Breakup of Australia?
  • Conclusion.

The Two Step Conspiracy: The People Don’t Know What’s Best.

Step 1: The Santa Claus Vaccination Plan.

Most parents let their children believe the white lie: “If you are good, Santa will bring you presents”.

The Santa story, using a little bribery since children are too young to understand that being good is its own reward. As parents, we seem to feel this is harmless and, the end justifies the means.

The same principle is applied with the public and vaccinations. Internationally, there have been various attempts to provide a reward for being vaccinated, as insufficient members of the public seem to understand that being vaccinated is also its own reward.

So, some governments in Australasia, particularly Australian national government, push a post vaccination “paradise only better” mythical world awaits vaccinated people, as a way to motivate people who don’t understand vaccination is its own reward.

This is an even easier sell in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne where previous zero-covid-19 now “paradise lost”.

Those who do not like deceit in general, don’t look too closely are the reality of the promise, as there is no real question about the benefits of vaccination, so even if the promise is questionable, surely the end justifies the means.

Given the motive at this step is all about getting people vaccinated, it is not difficult to get health care professionals on board. There is a desperate need to overcome provide some of the public with a vision of a rosy future, and these are not always the most reasonable people.

A vaccination centre at the Melbourne Town Hall would be shut until Monday after several of its staff were physically and verbally abused on their way to work, operator cohealth said on Thursday.

There have been several days of anti-vaccine, anti-lockdown protests in Melbourne: September 2021.

In fact, it becomes understandable for politicians to start to treat some of the public like children. But even if it is understandable, is it acceptable? It is valid to suggest “Santa Claus is coming” in the form of a post vaccine paradise, even after they have realised reality looks different.

There may be a degree of white lie, but some can excuse themselves as they are not spreading the lie, just not revealing the truth of what will happen after vaccinations.

Step 2: Government knows what’s right for public, so ‘railroading’ is justified.

Step 1, using a false promise to encourage people to people vaccinated is arguably relatively harmless, but it is step 2, the railroading of the public into the governments chosen path following vaccination, could potentially cost thousands of lives.

When vaccinations began back in March 2021, the original plan was that once vaccination levels achieved herd immunity, border restrictions to prevent spread of covid-19 could be safely removed. It has since become clear that target levels of vaccination will not achieve herd immunity, but the government plans to open anyway, despite the almost certain consequence of a Covid-19 death toll and hospitalisation rate far higher than seen in Australia or New Zealand previously during the pandemic.

The Australian government may feel the cost in potential lives lost is justified by trade and economic benefits of open borders, but does that excuse hiding the implications of opening from the public?

There are two potential options for dealing with Covid-19 delta strain in a vaccinated world:

  1. Use reduced transmission through vaccinations to improve zero-covid-19 of ‘past paradise’, and continue to work towards a goal of “herd immunity“.
  2. Use reduced hospitalisation as a result of vaccinations to “live with Covid-19” even without herd immunity.

This second step of the conspiracy is for the government to keep secret that vaccination targets no long provide herd immunity, and open anyway without allowing and debate as to whether this is what the public wants. The government choice may turn out best, but if so, why block debate in a democracy?

Originally it was thought when sufficient people were vaccinated, there would be herd immunity. Herd immunity with herd immunity cases would fall even after opening borders, giving the benefits of both choices. Now it is not yet proven that herd immunity is even possible.

The government wants to prevent any public debate on which option to choose.

The Australian government attitude is that, just as there people who do not know what is good for them and do not want to be be vaccinated, there are also people who don’t want borders open if too many deaths will follow, and they don’t know what is good for them either.

Step 2 is to keep it hidden that targets do not represent herd immunity and there will likely be many deaths per day following opening, allowing government to choose the next step without “messy” consultation or any need to ensure public support.

The Secret Behind Stage2: Paradise Lost With Delta.

Past Paradise: The Relatively Normal Life During Covid-19.

To understand why the reality how life after vaccine targets as planned by the government has to be kept secret, requires understanding how different live in Australia and New Zealand has been up to July 2021.

It has been no secret that, for most of pandemic up until July 2021, New Zealand and Australia were the places to be. Most of the time there were few restrictions New Zealand and the states of Australia, with the exception for some of the time of the state of Victoria and particularly the city of Melbourne. Every day life was quite normal, although restaurants and other venues did technically require 3d barcodes to be scanned, or least have people go through the motions of scanning, in order to record their visit, life was almost the same as pre pandemic. Except for one big restriction: international arrivals were limited and had to endure quarantine. In reality, apart from the quarantine, life was quite normal. No face masks or limitations to gatherings, even when attending full capacity sporting, or other stadium events.

Natalie Portman, Living Free of Covid-19 in Australia: December 2020.

Apart from a few rare outbreaks, no one was getting ill or dying, as there was simply zero-covid-19. Outside of Melbourne, Australia had less than 100 deaths from locally acquired infections, and New Zealand less than 20. Life was for most people, for most of the pandemic, unchanged except for those pesky travel/border restrictions, which was why so many celebrities were sitting out Covid-19 down under.

However, the national government was always strong opposed to the travel/border restrictions. They disrupted tourism and international trade, and the national government in Australia never felt it was worth disrupting trade to achieve zero-covid-19. Even the New Zealand government was running out of patience for tourism and trade. Vaccines have always been seen as the way to border and travel restrictions, so life could fully return to normal.

“Paradise” came at a cost: border/travel restrictions. Not even an option for most countries, but delivering a paradise for both Australia and New Zealand.

The Big Secret: From Paradise, To A Future Being Similar to the US or UK.

But now we get to the big secret: Instead of a return to life up to July 2021 in Australia, lifting border restrictions in Australia after reaching vaccination targets will most likely deliver a future similar to that in countries with similar vaccination levels who never had the same border restrictions. Like life in countries such the allies of the AUKUS alliance, the UK and US.

With Australia heading for similar levels of immunity to the UK and US, and planning to move to a similar policy border policy in respect of Covid-19, it should be not surprise that the result may be similar. But Australians are just not ready for that result.

The Big Secret: The Reveal, Denials, Attacks and Outrage.

The Reveal.

The big reveal is reported on here: “Annastacia Palaszczuk said the Doherty modelling predicted 80 deaths a day and 2,240 a month after six months. Is that correct?“.

There was outrage at suggesting Australia could see 80 deaths a day following the lifting of border restrictions, even thought, the projection is consistent with outcomes in other countries that do not have border restrictions. Consider daily deaths in the UK and the US:

Both countries have a larger population than Australia, so the figures need to be adjusted to deaths per 100,000 and applied to Australia’s population, results in these numbers for Australia:

  • 55 deaths per day based on the UK where immunity is higher than Australian targets.
  • 155 deaths per day based on the US with immunity as levels similar to Australian targets.

Denials

The 80 deaths per day suggested by Anastasia Palaszczuk, the leader of government in the state of Queensland, is certainly consistent with the numbers from the US and UK, as fact checked below. Yet Anastasia Palaszczuk was attacked and highly questionably fact checked as being “misleading” by Australia’s national broadcaster.

The claim of misleading was based on:

  • The figure of 80 deaths per day not being the only future included in the modelling.
  • Data in the modelling suggestion 80 deaths per day would no continue as lockdowns (even though not considered at a such a time in national government strategies) would likely be introduced.

Technically the quote is misleading as it draws not only on the modelling, but also on Australian government stated policy. Perhaps the quick quote should have been something like “if you used the data from modelling and assume current policy will be applied…”?

Yet, even the denial did not dispute that the main substance of the statement was in fact correct. The projections do show deaths of this magnitude, and in reality, looking the data, it does not seem logical to expect a different outcome.

To me this qualifies as a denial, and it seems the denial attracted more coverage than the original statement, which is why I have quoted a link to the “fact check”, and no link to the original reveal. In fact I found more then 5 sites reporting this denial, and none reporting the original reveal in any context other than in order to report the denial.

The Attacks and Outrage.

Annastasia Palaszczuk is questioning if and when borders should be reopened, given the death toll that will likely result. The problem is, given the strength of distain by the national government for any restriction on borders, even suggesting a discussion on how to proceed triggers the “pr” machine in response.

All the attacks and outrage incorrectly state Palaszczuk has declared she will not open borders, when in reality her words were a call for serious discussions:

“If New South Wales is the model of what lies in store for all of us, then we need to be having some serious discussions.”

VNExplorer

The premier said she will ignore the national cabinet’s plan to open borders at 80 per cent vaccination rates, saying it will send QLD ‘backwards’, ruining Christmas plans for thousands of people separated from their families.
On Thursday she said the national plan had ‘not been finalised’ and that she would keep borders shut to New South Wales despite soaring vaccinations.

Annastacia Palazczuk ruins holiday plans for millions: News Nation USA

It seems that to even question when borders should open is a plan to ruin Christmas!

‘A bad decision’: Palaszczuk border rules will cost Queenslander jobs

Eminetra

Again, just questioning with the border should open will cost jobs.

These are just sample I found on a quick search. I feel the important point is that just questioning when borders should be opened is what has resulted in the attacks.

Fact Check: Zero-Covid-19 and Immunity Level Comparisons.

Zero-Covid-19 or “Covid-zero”.

Australia always had a policy of “suppression”, not elimination. So what is covid-zero or “Zero-Covid-19”?

New Zealand, and the individual states of Australia all followed a policy of “zero community spread”, which has been also been reffered to as “covid-zero” and other variations.

They all mean a policy of using whatever means are required to end chains of transmission of the virus. There are three main ingredients:

  1. Border control with quarantine.
  2. Track and trace.
  3. Lockdowns in response to significant outbreaks.

Border control with quarantine. The first principle is to prevent people who arrive infected with the virus from infecting others during the time they are infectious. If no one introduces the virus, then there will be no “local transmission” of the virus. That is, the only cases will be those who arrive infected, having been infected before being “local”. Statistics of locations such as New Zealand still show cases being confirmed, even during long months of “covid-zero”, because people infected before arriving in New Zealand may only be confirmed as infected while in quarantine after then arrived. These people are not cases of “local infection”, but still count as cases within New Zealand.

Track and Trace. Border control with quarantine is not perfect, and cases still do get through quarantine, resulting in one or more “local infections”. When this does happen, the people who became infected, may have infected any number of people they have been in contact with. “Track and trace” is the process of trying to identify all people each infected person may have been in contact with, then test these people to identify any further infections. A complication is that most often the original case “escaping” quarantine will have been asymptomatic, and unknowingly infected several other people, and some of those may have been asymptomatic, resulting a many cases before an outbreak is even detected.

Lockdowns. When it becomes clear that there are, or will soon be, too many cases for track and trace, a lockdown is introduced to try to prevent or minimise spread while track and trace is used to isolate infected people. Prior to delta, even 20 cases was not necessarily sufficient for even a local area lockdown, but with delta, even the entire nation of New Zealand needed to lockdown with a single case was detected. This sounds, and is, extreme, but for almost 18 months this policy allowed New Zealanders to dine, socialise and attend sporting events unaffected by Covid-19.

Immunity Level Comparisons: Australia, New Zealand, UK and USA.

Immunity from Covid-19 generally results from either having previously been infected, or having been vaccinated. There is solid data on vaccinations, but on infections there is only confirmed cases, which depending on the testing regimes at the time and place will be somewhat lower than total infections.

Australia and New Zealand.

Both Australia and New Zealand have had negligible levels of infection so far, which on positive side means few deaths and hospitalisations so far, but the minus is that there is almost zero immunity from infection, which means there is no level of immunity beyond from vaccinations, so data from vaccination trackers is the level of immunity.

Levels of vaccination in Australia and New Zealand are quoted as a “percentage of the eligible population”, which is currently 16 and over in Australia, and 12 and over in New Zealand, which means numbers from the two countries cannot be directly compared. International data, as from vaccination trackers, is most often expressed as “percentage of the [full] population”, in order to allow direct comparison. Data reveals 18.7 percent of Australians were aged 0-14 in 2011, so assuming data is currently similar today and allowing for adding15 year-olds, gives around 20% of the population being under 16, so Australian vaccinations rates should be multiplied by 0.8 to arrive at rates for the entire population, while New Zealand number should be by 0.85. So opening levels for Australia at 70% and 80% represent 56% and 64% of the entire population.

UK.

As I found when exploring “Covid-19, Almost over?“, in early August 2021, researchers in the UK directly tested people was that 94% of adults in England had immunity to Covid-19. In the UK only those 16 and over are currently receiving vaccines, but the big difference in the UK is that a significant percentage of children would have already been exposed to the virus. Estimates so far suggest at least 90% of the total population would have some immunity.

USA.

I have not seen a study of immunity that allows projecting immunity levels nationally within the US. What we do know is that in the USA, 55% of the population are fully vaccinated as at September 21, 2021, which compares with 39.4% of Australians at this same date. Given significant number in the US who have been infected, the total immune level would I believe conservatively be at least 70%, which is almost double the current immunity in Australia.

Australian Situation: Lack of exposure in the past is a problem for the future.

The 70% and 80% immunity level for adults in Australia gives 56% and 64% population immunity, which even at higher of the two levels, is not only lower than the 90% estimated for the UK or even the 70% overall estimated for the US.

In fact, not matter what percentage of the Australian population 16 and over are vaccinated, it is not possible to reach immunity levels present in the UK. In reality, it will require a significant number of people being infected to ever match vaccination levels of the UK.

To achieve even current immunity levels present in the USA without a significant number of Australians gaining immunity through infection would require 87.5% of the Australian population being vaccinated.

Other factors may be different, but it will be difficult for Australia to even reach current USA immunity levels.

Reality of the Choice for Australasia: Rocks and Hard Places.

Australia and New Zealand have two real choices of next step:

  1. Use reduced transmission through vaccinations to improve zero-covid-19 of ‘past paradise’.
  2. Use reduced hospitalisation as a result of vaccinations to then “live with Covid-19”.

Both options are highly problematic and there is no easy solution.

Option 1: Use Reduce Transmissions to Improve “zero-covid-19” strategy.

There is no getting around that even in a fully vaccinated society, “zero-covid-19” still requires some form of “border protection” to prevent infectious people arriving and spreading the virus. The current system has failed in New Zealand and the Australian States/Territories of NSW, Victoria and ACT, and lead to lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus.

If all had remained the same, continuous streamlining improvements to border quarantine could have made life with zero-covid-19 better, but delta made it harder, while vaccinations should make it better.

It could be argued that if the relevant population(s) had been sufficiently vaccinated that spread would have been sufficiently suppressed that lockdowns may not have been needed, but how easy it is to solve the problem with the new elements of the delta variant and a vaccinated population is just unproven.

Australians in Sydney and Melbourne see people in the UK and USA now living what appears to be as free as people in Perth and Brisbane, and think “they have all the freedoms without any risk of outbreaks!”.

Option 2: Use reduced hospitalisation as a result of vaccinations to then “live with Covid-19”.

Many Australians are simply not ready for the levels of illness and death that accompanies those images where people in the USA and UK are living as just as free as people in Perth (Western Australia).

The illness and death are not seen, and to some, they don’t even matter. Protesters in Melbourne in particular, see their football grand final held in Perth Western Australia where there is no Covid-19 risk, while in the USA and UK the risk of Covid-19 does not seem to matter anyway. It seems there is no need to have borders and keep cases low, when life can look normal if Covid-19 is just simply almost ignored.

Again, it is a move into the unknown. Will the legacy of low cases and deaths in pandemic so far mean that lower levels of immunity will result in an even worse medical outcome in countries protected by vaccinations alone? There are those people who will care about the deaths. Or will it all just go away as Trump always predicted.

Confirmation Bias And The Flood of Information.

There is so much data on Covid-19, and much of it appears contradictory. In both providing and interpreting information, there is so much ambiguity. For example:

  • There is no universal agreement on what constitutes an ‘infection‘, or a ‘case‘.
  • Information of vaccination rates is presented as a percentage, but what it is a percentage of can vary make numbers look higher or lower.
  • Immunity from infections can be assumed to be at the rate of confirmed cases, or estimates of actual cases, which will normally be at least 2x greater, and up to 10x greater.
  • Data fluctuates so significantly making it “cherry pick” to support a variety of different conclusions.

For example, at the time of writing, both cases and deaths for both the USA and UK are higher than at the same date last year. This could be used to argue conditions have not improved, despite vaccinations. Alternatively, perhaps it is not time of year that is the deciding factor, but the phase of a ‘wave’ or ‘cycle’ and both countries it could be argued have far lower deaths and hospitalisations than at the same point in previous waves. There is data to support “things are worse than ever” and to support “things better than before”.

Given opinions are so polarised, there is a huge amount of confirmation bias happening when data is processed. Errors such as stating populations must have similar immunity levels on the basis of vaccinations alone and ignoring immunity from infections, is a typical example of distortions of reality that are rarely questioned.

A huge problem is that it is not just the public with ideas polarised through confirmation bias, it can also be the politicians making the decisions.

A Conspiracy, really? Who are the conspirators and why?

The essence of a conspiracy: A secret and hiding truth.

Just what is a conspiracy? There are many dictionary definitions, but there two common elements:

  1. There is a plot or plan with some motive for those involved in the conspiracy.
  2. The plot relies on keeping something secret that, if revealed, could the prevent the plan succeeding.

As you may have noticed, conspiracy theories have become rather common, and often with low credibility. Often it seems the “truth” claimed to be being hidden is not very credible, as with “flat earth” conspiracies, and other times it seems unlikely that the required number of people would all maintain secrecy if the secret was real, as with “twin towers” conspiracies that assume many many people participated in the consipriacy.

This conspiracy is all based on it remaining “secret” that opening border at the governments planned stage will likely result in deaths of perhaps 80 deaths per day, unless lockdowns continue following border openings.

At the core, this is a plot to ignore the science.

Conspiracy theories about Covid-19 are everywhere, but they are mostly where people who ignore science, or who believe the science is wrong, conspiring to protest and complain. Normally, the people in power are the ones following the science, although there have been some clear exceptions.

In the case of Australia, it is all about politicians with a history of ignoring science on other issues, doing it again. The Australian federal government has the history of choosing belief over science, and they have the same pattern with Covid-19.

Nationally, Australia’s policy with Covid-19 has always been “suppression”, based on the belief that the higher the level of cases, the easier it is to prevent more cases. While this may be true once a virus starts to run out of new people to infect, at more tolerable levels of virus in the community, growth is exponential. The very nature of exponential growth is, the bigger the number, the bigger the amount of growth. This means, in direct contradiction to opinions expressed by prime minister of Australia Scott Morrison, the more cases, the faster the growth and the harder the virus is to contain.

Fortunately it is the state politicians, who generally have a greater belief in science and act as a moderating influence who, as responsible for health, have run Covid-19 policy so far in Australia. Notably, state governments in Australia are also far more responsible with regard to climate policy.

But it is the goal of the core members of the conspiracy, the party lead by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, to censure debate and “railroad” Australians into a path return to “zero-covid-19” is “too difficult”, leaving “living with covid-19” as the only option available.

As with climate change where it not clear whether this political part believes climate change is no threat, if simply believes it is beneficial politically to act as their is no threat, it is difficult to know if the party members believes deaths in Australia will never reach per capita levels of comparable countries.

The Alternative Narrative: Borders must be open, consequences are just reality.

The Australian government never wanted borders closed from the outset, declaring the economic cost would be too high, and that even if health outcomes were would be worse, it was always about balancing health and economic outcomes.

This new plan is simply a return to original narrative, this time eliminating the arguments of opponents that health outcomes would also be costly by keeping the health costs secret.

Faith and Confirmation Bias, How Followers Join The Conspiracy.

The conspiracy of “opening anyway” relies on the “secret” that herd immunity no longer will not be in place when the border are opened. That all data suggests opening will mean cases rising to levels common elsewhere but previously seen in Australia under wraps until opening has gone too far to be stopped.

The national government alone cannot stop others realising. It takes medical advisors, and state leaders and news media to also continue to promote “just get vaccinated and all will be OK”. It certainly does not need those pesky states questioning whether they should open up and allow infections to rise.

In reality this makes a fragile conspiracy as there are both those for and against:

  • Supporting the conspiracy so far:
    • The Australian Government
    • The Rupert Murdoch controlled press and “shock jocks”.
      • During covid-19 have supported “the virus is not even a real problem” side of any argument.
    • Some Medical professionals fearing vaccine hesitancy.
      • If opening is seen as a reward for vaccination, perhaps promising open borders is ok, and surely the government will not really open if it is not safe?
    • State Leaders In States where are current outbreaks that are not under control.
      • Opening borders may not make it worse if covid-19 has already spread.
  • The Breakaways: Who will “spill the beans”?
    • Epidemiologists
      • Data is becoming clearer and clearer on spread even when vaccinated.
    • State leaders from states without covid-19 cases when targets are reached.
      • Palaszczuk from the state of Queensland
      • Most likely McGowan from Western Australia, and perhaps others in Zero-Covid-19 states.
      • The New Zealand government?

There are signs of supporters joining the breakaways as targets for opening come closer and potential problems begin to look like realities. The NSW state leader has already started qualifying messages on opening. I expect “leaks” of the truth to start to emerge from others beyond Palaszczuk, and will update this section as any emerge.

International Consequences and A Breakup of Australia?

There is more to explain, but for a few months in 2020, all Australia had lockdowns and the national government supported the lockdowns by funding a scheme to protect jobs while employees were forced to remain at home.

Contrast responses to the delta outbreak in NSW, Victoria and New Zealand:

  • The responses in NSW and Victoria were ineffective as workers needed to continue to work as the national government would no longer offer “job keeper” since the national government never supported Zero-Covid-19.
  • The response in New Zealand was effective as the national government still supports Zero-Covid-19.

Now consider what will happen in future with Western Australia:

  • The Western Australian Government will be very reluctant to open borders unless it is genuinely safe.
  • The National Government will not support Western Australia with any future lockdowns, or other Covid-19 support unless borders are open.
  • This could lead to a battle between a very popular state government in Western Australia, believing it should have the right to funding its own policies as it is a significant part of the Australian economy.
    • Western Australia could “go it alone” and keep their borders closed in defiance of the national government.
    • Western Australia “going it alone” would be a significant threat to national stability if deaths rise to expected levels in the eastern states.
    • The ultimate threat would be for Western Australia suggest succession, and given such threats have been present for some time, this issue could potentially be the “final straw”.

to be continued.

Conclusion.

The reality is that no country has managed the ultimate goal of herd immunity. It initially looked possible in Israel, before delta took hold. It even looked possible in the USA before delta arrived.

Neither:

  • “zero-covid-19” while it requires quarantine
    • nor
  • “living with covid-19” while it will result in even close to “30 deaths per 10 million people per day”

Is an outcome any country wants to accept going forward. A problem with covid-19 is that we cannot conduct live experiments with populations, and the world needs to be able to use results from countries who are able to do things differently to learn the best path. Australia and New Zealand, perhaps due in part to their isolation have provided data on alternative paths that is of value to the world. If either or both simply give up and join the rest of the world would be sad. To do so even if it will result in unnecessary deaths would be tragic.

It is not yet clear which is strategy is correct for Australia or New Zealand at this time, but as it is important for the world that somewhere tries “zero-covid-19” if it is at all viable at this time, it is certainly important that neither country is railroaded into just opening borders regardless of the alternatives because of an ideological position the prevents even open debate..

Australia: Climate Policy Fail? Or Democracy Fail?

Stockpiles of coal at the Newcastle Coal Terminal in the Australian state of New South Wales. (note 1)

Of all the developed countries, Australia has the poorest standing on climate.

Bas Eickhout: Dutch Parliament Delegation leader (via CNN) .
  • The ‘Standing’: Government Climate Denial.
  • The Politics: Coal Delivers Power.
  • Public Sentiment Doesn’t Match Government Policy.
  • Behind the Politics: The electorate has limited influence.
  • Democracy Fail For Australia, or a Problem with Global Reach?
Continue reading “Australia: Climate Policy Fail? Or Democracy Fail?”

Vaccinations and Spread: The Dangerous Myth That Vaccinated People Don’t Spread Covid-19

  • October 2021 Update:
    • Provax vs antivax.
    • The Real Impact of Vaccines is a score, not binary.
    • Spread With Delta Variant (6.5).
    • The score on spread reduction: 2x? 3x?
    • The score on death prevention: 10x reduction?
    • Vaccine passports: Good and Bad!
  • Original Content: July 2021

Pro-vax vs Anti-vax

Why Anti-vax?

The term “antivax” is well established, and is used to describe people who the person using the term feels has an irrational negative attitude to being vaccinated. The reasons for not being wanting to be vaccinated quoted include:

  1. Vaccinations are all some conspiracy.
    • Sigh
  2. I am young and healthy so I do not need the vaccine.
  3. It is my choice to take the risk or not.
    • Not being vaccinated places others at risk as well.

Being vaccinated does help protect others, because a vaccinated person is less likely to infect others. While being vaccinated does not guarantee against infecting others, the risk of infecting others is at least halved, and on some evidence could even be reduced by a factor or three. A group of people exposed to the virus would statistically infect as most half the people. A halved spread rate can make the difference between a growing outbreak that reaches and infects thousands, and a potential outbreak that never takes off and is limited to less than 100. The cumulative effect can easily be underestimated. Being vaccinated saves lives, and makes a far bigger difference to the community that just protecting the individual.

Pro-Vax can also be a problem.

Some ‘pro-vax’ people apply a similar level of confirmation bias as ‘anti-vaxers’, just in the opposite direction. Applying positive confirmation bias to information on vaccines can lead to people making or believing disprovable claims, some even easily disprovable, which once disproved only increase doubt over what is real and what is not.

Examples included believing that no vaccinated person will ever die, or that vaccinated people never spread the virus. A person with either of these high expectations may have their beliefs shattered when they hear of a vaccinated person dying, or infecting a family member.

The Real Impact of Vaccines is A Score, not a Binary yes/no.

The Problems From Reducing Everything to “yes” or “no”, without a ‘score’.

We sometimes live in the age of the check box, where everything is reduced to a binary “yes” or “no”. I recall seeing a comparison of cars with a checkbox for “ABS brakes” and thinking, “really, so any ABS even one that barely works at all, should result in braking systems being considered equal?”. A system which assigns a ‘score’ to how effective the brakes are solves the problems, but requires more engagement than a simple checkbox. Reducing everything to checkboxes simplifies comparisons, but may also lead to product makers simply finding the simplest way to tick each box. In the same way, reducing the impact of vaccines to binary is another example of this simplified approach being problematic.

Binary Positions with vaccines.

The pattern or “reducing to the simplest” also takes place with vaccines. Most questions of any merit require an answer with a ‘score’, and not a simply binary yes/no. Many people insist on the the binary yes/no, and the result is a ‘wrong’ question.

  • Wrong questions have binary answers:
    • Do vaccinated people still die: yes or no.
    • Can vaccinated people still spread the virus: yes or no.
  • Right Questions Requiring A ‘Score’:
    • Does vaccination prevent most deaths: yes, 90% of deaths are prevented, and maybe more.
    • Does vaccination reduce spread: yes, by reducing spread by 2x or 3x, entire outbreaks can be prevented.

The right questions are not a simple as the wrong one. Much harder to include in a 140 character tweet and require a longer attention span.

This leads to many people falling back to the binary, which results in:

  • People in favour of vaccines deciding that it must be that no vaccinated people die, and that there will be no spread amongst vaccinated people.
  • People who see that there are still deaths and spread and as a result believe vaccination does not achieve its stated goals and so it must all be some conspiracy.

What a mess.

Spread With The Delta Variant: 6.5.

Although an actual spread rate will vary depending on the environment, the r0 number for the delta variant is assumed to be between 5 and 8, and typically between 6 and 7.

“For the delta variant, the R0 is now calculated at between six and seven,” Wenseleers says. So it’s two- to three-times as contagious as the original version of SARS-CoV-2 (R0 = 2 to 3) but less contagious than the chickenpox (R0 = 9 to 10).

The Delta Variant Isn’t As Contagious As Chickenpox. But It’s Still Highly Contagious (also at NPR.org)

The score on reduction of spread: 2x? 3x?

Unfortunately, the answer is not quite so simple as just one number, as effectiveness changes considerably with time following either vaccination or infection. Although the studies quoted here do give specific numbers, some caution is advised.

With relation to the current COVID-19 virus, the R0 for the Delta variant is between 6.0 and 7.0. This means that one person infected with the COVID-19 Delta variant can infect 6-7 people, who then can each go on to infect another 6-7 people, and so on. This is nearly double that of the original strain of COVID-19, which had an R0 of between 2.0 and 3.0.

It was originally assumed, that as with many viruses, it would be extremely rate that successfully people successfully would ever still spread the virus. Almost like typhoid Mary with the Typhoid bacteria, but the Covid-19 spreads even when people are asymptomatic, resulting in most estimated of spread being in the longer term reduced by at least 2x, and more likely 3x, although for a short time after vaccination much lower amount of spread can be recorded.

The score on death prevention: 10x reduction?

Thirty-five fully vaccinated people have now died in NSW’s Delta outbreak, with three fully vaccinated patients among the seven deaths recorded yesterday.

While that’s about 11 per cent of the total 316 deaths since this outbreak began, experts say other risk factors are also at play — including age and underlying health issues.

ABC News, 29 Sept 2021 : A small number of fully vaccinated people with COVID-19 in NSW have died.

A big problem with statistics from the field, is that they require interpretation, and that interpretation allows a lot of scope for confirmation bias. In this case, the press article does seem apply confirmation bias to downplay the number of deaths.

In reality, the raw data is that less that 50% of the population was fully vaccinated over the time period, and 11% of deaths came from the less than 50% who were fully vaccinated.

Yes, the frail and elderly are overrepresented in deaths of fully vaccinated people, but the frail and elderly are also overrepresented in deaths amongst the vaccinated. While not all deaths are frail and/or elderly, frail and elderly people are at greater risk from Covid-19. Because frail and elderly people are at greater risk, these people were allocated vaccines first, which means the population of vaccinated people over the time span is also heavily weighted towards the frail and elderly. On May 3, vaccines opened for the over 50s, but prior to that date, they were only for people in aged care, with other special needs, or health care workers. It was August 30 before the Pfizer vaccine was available to under 40s, and with health warnings and medical clearance requires in place for under 40s to receive AstraZenica, very few under 40s were fully vaccinated before August 30th.

So for the period of this data, the vaccinations were heavily weighted towards people over 40. This complicates interpreting the data. Less frail and elderly people were unvaccinated, so there were less frail and elderly unvaccinated people for comparison in the statistics.

In the end, that number is small, the breakdown of the numbers is complex, but any conclusion that 11% of deaths over the period is a distortion in one specific direction is just guesswork.

A better and more comprehensive analysis is available from UK data, where 94% of adults have immunity, yet the 7 day average of death reached 143 on September 21, 2021. Given the highest ever UK 7 day average of 1244 and January 26th 20210 was not 10x higher, then even if we assume that the pandemic would otherwise be at that worst every point ever right now if not for vaccines, then the reduction in deaths is still less than 10x.

At this time, a 10x reduction is deaths is all we can assume. A 10x reduction in the chance of dying is certainly something worthy of bothering to get vaccinated for, but not sufficient reason to then totally abandon all caution.

Vaccine passports: Good and Bad!

Here is the for and against summary for vaccine passports:

  • For:
    • Passports provide an incentive for people to be vaccinated.
    • As vaccinated people have reduced spread rates, events open only the vaccinated have reduced risk.
  • Against:
    • Vaccinated people do still present a risk, and a vaccinated person from an area with more than 2x the infection rate should still be required to quarantine.
    • Vaccination passports can falsely create the impression of invulnerability

Original Content: July 2021

Confirmation of reality: Extensive spread even if vaccinated.

A new study shows the Delta Covid-19 variant produced similar amounts of virus in vaccinated and unvaccinated people if they get infected.

CNN Health: July 2021

Note that once infected, the amount of virus is similar. This does not mean that spread is necessarily the same within a vaccinated group as within an unvaccinated group, as depending on how the ambiguous ‘infected’ is interpreted, there may be less risk of being ‘infected’ when vaccinated, and it is also possible that similar amounts of virus many not result is similar infectivity.

It is still most likely that being vaccinated reduces spread, but what is becoming clear is that reduction of spread is not elimination of spread. Given the delta strain is twice as infectious as the original, then unless being vaccinated means less than half the risk of spread following vaccination, a fully vaccinated population would experience as much spread of Covid-19 delta variant, as occurred within unvaccinated populations and the original virus.

People should still get vaccinated as it will massively reduce their own risk, and it still will like reduce the risk of spread to others, but being vaccinated is not a panacea or reason to abandon other measures.

We Know Elimination of Spread is a myth, but many pretend, or even lie anyway.

There Is Clear Data on Spread Amongst Vaccinated.

While it is only recently we have studies showing just how infectious vaccinated people can be, it has long been clear that being vaccinated will not necessarily block infection. Examples of people being aware of the reality include the case of the UK health secretary, who under the rules for the UK went into lockdown despite having tested positive to Covid-19 despite being fully vaccinated. Note that the UK prime minister Boris Johnson, initially was going to not isolate despite being a close contact of the health minister because Boris Johnson is not only fully vaccinated but has also famously been previously infected, but Boris Johnson was forced to ‘backflip’ and go into isolation as scientific advice was that he could still not only be infected but also spread the virus.

Yet there are commercial interests that promote the fairy tale that “vaccinated people won’t spread the virus” because it can allow commercial activities that clearly, when facing reality, are life threatening if allowed on a large scale. Vaccine passports promoted as suggesting holders need not quarantine is just one example.

Nowhere has yet achieved Herd Immunity through vaccinations alone.

If there is herd immunity, then case numbers gradually drop to zero. Although case numbers almost everywhere have experienced declines, the declines always slow down as numbers dwindle. This indicates that the high immunity of recently infected people is critical to achieving herd immunity.

Government Policy Based On Myths Could Be Tragic.

The Dangers of Subscribing To The Myth.

Unlike the myth of Santa Claus, where it can be said that telling people things you know are not true can be benign and yet make them happy, this myth is definitely dangerous.

The national news program last night declared that Australia would require 80% of the entire population to be vaccinated in order for life to be able to return to normal with the delta variant of Covid-19. The problem is, the data presented clearly completely unreal, and seems to assume zero fully vaccinated people become infected. So what is the reality? The reality is there will be no herd immunity at 80% vaccination levels, just reduced hospitalisations as a result of the vaccinations. Policy tells the population one thing, when reality is another. One people are convinced they cannot spread Covid-19 following vaccination, their behaviour is likely to be reckless. Unlike the Santa myth that is used to encourage good behaviour, this myth can also encourage bad behaviour.

Grattan Institute Report: Simplistic Statistical Lies.

It can seem simple. If in an unvaccinated population the virus spread to 5 people, once 80% (4 in 5) are vaccinated, then the spread will be to 1 person or less. ‘Herd Immunity’. Except this only works if vaccinated people cannot spread the virus. You would think, just weeks after the fully vaccinated UK health minister tested positive and need to in isolation, and his close contact, previously infected and vaccinated Prime Minister Boris Johnson went into lockdown, that thinktanks would be advising the Australian government that vaccinated people can be infected, and potentially spread the disease.

In fact, with the UK at over 80% immunity levels once the effects of vaccinations and prior infections are both taken into account, guesswork is not required to see that infection numbers do rise even with 80% immunity, as it is happening in Britain. Herd immunity is not achieved, and the only hope is that with sufficient people vaccinated, deaths will be low. However, deaths in Britain with 80% immunity are currently at around 100 per day, so the question as to whether that is ‘low enough’ and other consequences can be tolerated is still to be determine. However, but the time Australia does reach 80% immunity, then there will be more data.

Theoretical model that conflicts with real world data from the UK.

The question is how a group who advise government can predict that 80% will actually provide herd immunity, and that if there are outbreaks, as shown in the news article on 29 July 2021 on abc news, these outbreak would produce only around 10 deaths per outbreak is frightening. The UK has proven that as fully vaccinated people can still spread the virus, herd immunity is not achieved, and case numbers continue with deaths at levels many times those the models being used project.

No more lockdowns, no more capacity limits on venues, and that is the point as well when we can start opening up international borders.

Danielle Wood, Grattan Institute, on ABC news July 29, 2021.

This is a cause for concern, but at least the advice is not to open up before 80% levels, and hopefully by that time wise heads will prevail.

Update 17th August: Finally, Now the ABC also reports Herd Immunity does not appear possible.

Implications for Living With Covid-19.

There are choices as to what future countries aim for:

The problem created by the myth, is that if living with Covid-19 there will be very low rates of infection as everyone is vaccinated. The reality is that all evidence suggests that spread among vaccinated people of the delta strain is at least as prevalent as spread with unvaccinated people of the original Covid-19 virus.

Given that everyone locked down before hospitals overloaded with the original strain, the lower hospitalisation rate means we can expect the delta virus to spread to unprecedented levels with a vaccinated community. The positive news is that the chance of being hospitalised may be reduced by 90% to 95% as a result of being vaccinated.

However, as with the vaccinated health secretary, this ‘immunisation’ is against serious disease, not all disease. So over time, it seems certain everyone will have the disease ten or even twenty times. Which means, back to be hospitalised, although perhaps only after a year or two instead of first time around.

Conclusion.

Sorry, but like the pandemic, it is not over. But I will be trying to add a conclusion to this page soon,

Mid 2021: Eliminate it? Or ‘Live With’ Covid-19 and what follows?

Is China Responsible for Covid-19, or Scapegoat?

So far around 75% of countries who have lived with Covid19, most often not by choice, and around 25% of countries have lived in the shadow of Covid-19, but through elimination, mostly without Covid-19.

Vaccinations may allow living with Covid-19 to be more palatable, but they also provide an opportunity for more countries to eliminate Covid-19.

This raises a huge question of global significance: does humanity prefer to live with Covid-19, or use immunity through vaccinations as an opportunity to eliminate the virus.

What is ‘Living with Covid-19’?

Opening up when there will still be spread: Giving up on reaching herd immunity.

More and more the phase “we have to learn to live with Covid-19” seems to appear. The suggestion is, even if cases are rising, remove Covid-19 restrictions, and allow the virus to spread as a result. Since ‘herd immunity‘ is when there are sufficient people immune that a virus will not spread, this means removing restrictions without achieving herd immunity. This means giving up, or simply not waiting to achieve herd immunity through vaccinations.

Vaccines have promised the possibility of herd immunity through vaccinations, but given herd immunity is when cases do not rise even when restrictions are removed, this is a call to not for herd immunity. Why? There are 3 possible reasons:

  1. Everyone wanting a vaccine has been vaccinated, so it is considered fair to expose the unvaccinated.
  2. It has been decided herd immunity is impossible, but as with the common cold, the disease is not sufficiently severe to justify eradication.
  3. Even if herd immunity is possible, it has been determined that with the most at risk now vaccinated, it is an acceptable risk and lower cost to achieve herd immunity through exposing the rest of the population to the disease.

The UK seems to be choosing option 3, while Israel, even with a high level of vaccinations is reimposing restrictions as with their high level of vaccinations, cases are again rising.

Which path should a country choose? Or is Option 4: “Only remove all restrictions when the virus will no longer spread”, still an option? With herd immunity, even if a person from outside starts a cluster, that cluster would die out by itself because the spread factor has dropped below one. It seems no country is there yet.

Asymptomatic Spread: Will the waves just keep coming?

Theoretical practical flattened curve (blue bar is duration of flattening).

Early in the pandemic I wrote about the much misunderstood and misrepresented ‘best practice for pandemics’ referred to as ‘flattening the curve‘. In theory there would be only two waves: One with restrictions in place, and another after restrictions are relaxed.

Yet with Covid-19 many countries have seen more waves. Is this a sign that herd immunity is impossible with Covid-19, or just that we have not reached required vaccination levels?

Outbreaks with Covid-19 have not followed the script because:

  • lockdowns can be more effective than the theory expected, stopping instead of lowering spread
  • there is insufficient ‘herd immunity’ levels when re-opening, forcing the introduction of new measures to reduce spread

It is possible that with Covid-19, as being vaccinated reduces, rather than eliminates, the risk of spread, that herd immunity becomes impossible. The graph of worldwide cases has at least three peaks, but these were largely driven by peaks in the the US (Jan 2021), India (April 2021) and a current rise that must turn into a peak driven by many countries together, rather than the whole world having three peaks together.

More disturbingly the US, Israel, and Japan are all heading for their 5th peak, the UK its 4th. Many other countries have also had a sequence of peaks that would be expected from an outbreak managed using a ‘stop-go’ containment plan of continually deliberately letting cases rise in order to achieve herd immunity by infection. Instead of this being by design, all these countries again rising cases again now as a result of more infectious strains of the virus. Herd immunity is proving elusive, likely because with Covid-19, vaccination is may not create sufficient immunity for herd immunity.

The Case for elimination, and against living with Covid-19:

Blaming China won’t prevent outbreaks like Covid-19, and we can expect more pandemics.

It is popular to blame China for Covid-19. Trump even pointedly called it the ‘China virus’. However, perhaps blaming China is a way to avoid admitting that 21st century society is a hot bed for pandemics.

Really it, the evidence shows pandemics are becoming more frequent, and the most likely source of Covid-19, our 21st century society of almost 8 billion extremely mobile humans crowded onto one finite planet, it not going away and statistically will soon add another pandemic. It we don’t get ride of this one, we could soon have two to deal with at once. Should we just live with an ever increasing number of pandemic level viruses circulating?

UNESCO welcomes the release of the latest expert report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) which establishes the links between biodiversity loss and the increase in pandemic risk factors. This scientific report highlights that the current COVID-19 crisis, which it has its origins in microbes carried by animals, and the previous global health pandemics all have one thing in common:  their emergence is entirely driven by human activities.

Unesco: 29/10/2020

Analysis of the origin of the virus does suggest China was the origin, but that given that no one blamed the 1918 flu on the USA, nor did they blame 2009 ‘swine flu’ pandemic on the USA, even though both appear to have began in the USA, blaming China just because that is where the first case occurred would seem a double standard.

Plus, the worst outbreak in Australia during 2020 clearly was imported from the US, and variants though to have originated in the UK, South Africa, Brazil and particularly India have taken over now as the source of concern. So why should we blame China?

We don’t blame the county where a virus starts because it could have happened anywhere.

Or could it have happened anywhere? Isn’t there a suggesting China is the ‘bad guy’ with this outbreak?

In reality. No. There is a slight chance bad management by China made the outbreak worse, and even a minute and highly unlikely chance accidentally released a virus that was already in nature and able to cause a pandemic, but even these unlikely scenarios do not change the underlying source: nature.

And it is not just my analysis, here is a review by the Sydney University scientist who was first in the world to isolate the virus: Leading biologists publish review of SARS-CoV-2 origin evidence – The University of Sydney

China gets blamed because it is good for social media, and good for politics, even in China!

Social media is gets engagement and thus revenue through outrage, and blaming China creates outrage against China, and outrage against those who blame China. Politically, leaders get better approval when there is an ‘enemy’, and blaming China allows American leaders to appear strong against China, and having the world blame China allows Chinese leaders to position China as being oppressed by the west and generate increased nationalism. Perhaps politically it is Chinese leaders who benefit most from China being blamed.

But none of this changes the reality, that there is a reason people where waring of just such a pandemic, and they were even movies about the scenario just before it happened: human society has created the breeding ground for pandemics.

And if we ‘live’ with this pandemic causing virus, we cannot be at all sure it will remain the only one we are living with at once.

Living with Covid-19 is not like living with another influenza: Its far, far worse.

Earlier this month, the Australian government announced a four-phase plan to return us to something resembling normality. Under this plan, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, we will eventually treat COVID-19 “like the flu”.

The hope is vaccines will allow us to live with some transmission without many people getting seriously ill or dying.

But death and hospitalisation aren’t the only outcomes of COVID-19 we need to prevent. New research shows even young people can be left with chronic health problems after infection.

COVID-19 will always be a very different disease to the flu. We should aim to stamp it out like measles, not let it spread.

Dr Zoë Hyde: Epidemiologist, University of Western Australia.

I suggest reading the full article by Dr Zoë Hyde entitled: No, we can’t treat COVID-19 like the flu. We have to consider the lasting health problems it causes. In fact, since it is under creative commons, republish the article.

While there are politicians who suggest that, once the population is sufficiently vaccinated, Covid-19 could become “like the flu”, this is unrealistic claim is typically by those politicians have found the pandemic has improved their chances or re-election, and not something an actual expert would say.

The UK has not reached target levels of vaccination, but when considering most of the unvaccinated in the UK are in age groups of greatest socialisation and least likely to have shown symptoms if infected, the percentage of the population who are likely to have immunity is likely to be close to the maximum percentage that would be achieved by population alone. Despite this, many warn of the consequences of deciding to ‘live with’ Covid-19.

Without elimination, we are ramping up the virus incubator: a completely batty idea.

The most common source of pandemics are viruses that evolve in bats. So many viruses evolve in bats because bats have live with a lot of viruses. Humans living with Covid-19, means another population living with a dangerous virus, and therefore another factory to produce new viruses. The total number of bats in the world is unknown, but even if it does exceed the number of humans, human contact between humans is far higher than human contact with bats. Plus, a vaccinated population living with a virus is like a challenge to evolution “solve the problem of how to thrive in vaccinated hosts”.

Even living with Covid-19 in just 2021 poses a threat of creating ‘variant factories‘.

The chance of future pandemics will be far higher if we are living with dangerous viruses in the not just the bat population, but also the human population.

Living with Covid-19 the virus may mean a partially brain damaged population.

Being vaccinated means statistically means exposure to the virus in the vast majority of cases will not result in symptoms, however this does not mean zero copies of the virus, and does not ensure a person will not test positive or suffer ‘long covid’.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in the UK are soaring, with the latest daily figure for 9 July showing at 35,707 cases. Leading scientists and clinicians are saying the government’s plan to ease lockdown on 19 July is both “dangerous” and “unethical”. But Johnson is sticking to his plan, which is herd immunity in all but name. Meanwhile, recent studies reveal that damage to brain tissue could be yet another consequence of long Covid.

Boris Johnson toys with herd immunity despite evidence linking long Covid to brain damage.

I do not believe the above article is suggesting Boris Johnson has brain damage as a result of his well know case of Covid-19, but there is the suggestion that opening up the UK is somewhat irrational. Then again, while only a small percentage of the electorate would have brain damage after 1 year of Covid-19, it is unknown how high that percentage would be after 10 or 20 years of a population living with Coivd-19. Apart from jokes about how a brain damaged population may help some political candidates, there is a serious side to the dangers of a long term experiment exposing the population to a dangerous virus, year after year, even if respiratory symptoms are known to be in almost all cases at the worst very mild in vaccinated people, when other affects are not yet known.

Children, currently not even vaccinated, could be subjected year after year for their entire lifetime.

Economic Cost of Living with Covid-19.

Start with the economic cost of influenza, which in the US alone in 2014 was estimated at more than $87 billion dollars annually.

Covid-19 is far worse. Firstly, except when everyone is social distancing and having some degree of lockdown, the rate of mortality and hospitalisation is higher than with influenza. Data for delta suggests at least 10x higher, which by itself would raise the cost just in the US to $870 billion, and that is before considering the cost of ‘long covid’, of vaccinating the entire population repeatedly, and trying to prevent outbreaks from vaccine resistant strains. Even in the best possible scenario, living with Covid-19 would be extremely costly, and the costs would continue year after year, while if Covid-19 is eliminated, annual costs would also be eliminated.

The ‘Flu’ is not that great to live with either, why would be want another worse version?

The Influenza virus mutates so frequently that it is more difficult to vaccinate against than Covid-19. With vaccines, we can lower the illness and mortality levels from Covid-19 to be comparable to those with influenza. But this is not like for like, this is that after vaccinating the entire population, we still have what is quite a big problem. Influenza and not something we want to live with either, and researchers are working to try find way to eradicate influenza, not add another problem just as bad.

It would be far better to ask “can we also eradicate influenza”, than “it is ok to have another one”.

The case for living with Covid-19, and against elimination.

Elimination is too hard.

Approximately 25% of the countries in the world have managed to eliminate the spread of Covid-19. Given that means it has been circulating in 75% of countries, which makes it impossible to ensure not a single infected virus arrives with international travellers to those 25% of countries without local spread. As Covid-19 enters a countries without local spread over and over again, Covid-19 outbreaks keep happening, and to the virus must be eliminated over and over again to return to be a country with elimination.

This proves many locations have over and over again proven it is possible to eliminate Covid-19. The problem in keeping Covid-19 eliminated, is that the majority of other countries are not yet even close or trying to eliminate Covid-19, so international travellers continue to re-introduce the virus.

Economic Cost of Elimination.

So elimination, at least so far, has been possible.

The next main argument against elimination, and for living with Covid-19, is that elimination is too costly. Elimination requires the use of lockdowns, and these reduce economic activity. While living with the disease comes at cost to society and has an economic cost, a disease can even generate economic activity, while lockdowns used for elimination also eliminate economic activity and increase the enemy of economic activity: unpaid work.

Similarly, during lockdown during a pandemic, even if the same number of meals are eaten during the lockdown, if none of the meals are purchased at a restaurant, the result is a disaster for the economy.

On the other hand, if a pandemic makes retired people ill, there is increased economic activity through the medical services. If some die, then there is economic activity for the funeral system, although this is better there are no limits on people attending.

Economic Activity vs Wealth Production.

The Richest and Most Powerful are better off with a pandemic.

Note also that while a long pandemic may cause economic hardship for many, the wealthiest 5% of society tend to get wealthy during a pandemic. There are some very wealthy people with big marketing budgets who will lose wealth if Covid-19 is eliminated.

The combined worth of Australian billionaires was assessed to be 52.4% higher this week than at the same time last December.

By comparison, billionaires in the US and UK recorded an increase of about 25% over the same period, the Bloomberg index shows.

The Labor frontbencher Andrew Leigh said the figures “remind us of the importance of tackling inequality, which is significantly higher in Australia than it was a generation ago”.

“Those increases are remarkable,” the shadow assistant minister for Treasury and charities told Guardian Australia.

“Any of your readers would be punching the air if they had enjoyed a 20% increase in their wealth, and they would be double fist-pumping the air if they had a 50% increase, and yet that’s the story for the typical Australian billionaire.”

Australia’s billionaires became 50% richer during pandemic: Guardian (msn alt link)

Australia mid 2021: A Case study and experiment in elimination.

Overview.

I will update this as the story unfold, but as previous described in July 2021: Vaccines or not, its not over yet, Australia has recently had an a new outbreak of the delta variant of Covid-19. Eliminating the delta virus, in a population with only less than 9% level of vaccination, and in a country where a greater percentage of the population living in cities than in the USA or UK, will be a challenge that has never before been tackled. However if this can be managed, than most other countries should be able to also managed elimination, at least once vaccination rates are higher.

With individual case history traced in Australia due to the current low infection numbers, data will be revealed about the spread of the delta variant that has not been possible to collect from previous outbreaks.

This outbreak started in a country previously free of local transmission of the virus, from a single case of infection of a driver transporting international flight crews to their hotels in Sydney. One of more flight crew passengers must have passed the infection of the delta strain through to the driver.

Up to July 16th.

In the fully open city of Sydney, the driver visiting shopping centres and other venues before having symptoms and getting tested. This triggered an outbreak predominantly in the eastern suburbs of Sydney which after two weeks of ‘whack a mole’ resulted in a lockdown for Sydney. ‘Whack a mole’ because by the time the outbreak in the Eastern Suburbs appeared was under control, there was a new outbreak in the South Western suburbs of Sydney. Following the first case being detected on June 17th, there was a delay of 9 days until the first lockdown began, possibly to first allow the school term to complete. Initially the lockdown was to last 2 weeks and end before school returned, but this was extended due to that ‘whack a mole’ effect seeing cases rise in the second location even during the light lockdown.

Then 3 infected removalists travelled to Melbourne and were part of spreading the virus to Australia’s second largest city, before travelling to a third state capital, Adelaide. Before the spread to Melbourne was detected, the worst had already happened, and infected person had infected others at a crowded football match.

Now on July 16th, over 8 million Australians, in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne are in lockdown.

2021: July 24th.

Crowds at protest
Protesters have been chanting for “freedom”.(ABC News: Timothy Swanston)

On July 24th, with the highest number of Covid-19 cases so far, a protest down Broadway to the centre of city town hall took place. With an outspoken far right contingent in Sydney, the prospect of civil disobedience such as this managing to prevent a lockdown achieving results is very real. Protesters protesting a lockdown, yet at the same time making lockdown inevitable is potential perfect storm. Early stage, but this could become very serious.

Some protesters brought their children, while few people were wearing face masks at the demonstration, which started at Victoria Park in Camperdown.

Protesters carried signs saying “Wake up Australia” and waved Australian flags.

NSW Police received an application for the protest, which was rejected.

Sydney anti-lockdown protest chaos as NSW COVID-19 crisis deteriorates

Much depends on whether the march will turn out to be a super-spreader event, and that could turn out to depend on whether people who knew they were infected would attend with nefarious intent.

On July 17th, the same day the NSW government strengthened lockdown measures the Populations Intervention Unit at the University of Melbourne released modelling. On interactive graph, it shows cases to peak at 198 on July 27th under the worst case scenario. Of course, modelling did not anticipate protest marches impacting the outcome, but even prior to any such effect latest trends risk exceeding the worst case scenario, with 163 cases from July 23 (below the projected worst case outcome), representing an above worst case rise in infection numbers from the previous day, but could be an aberation.

By State: (data sourced from ABC.net.au).

New South Wales
Brad Hazzard urges Fairfield residents to avoid passing the virus to famiy and friends
NSW health minister Brad Hazzard said the state had recorded 163 locally acquired cases over the last 24 hours and 45 were infectious while in the community. (News Video)

New South Wales registered a record 163 new locally acquired today, including one death. 

At least 45 of the cases were infectious while in the community. 

The man who died was in his 80s and lived in Sydney’s south-west.

In a sometimes emotional press conference, Health Minister Brad Hazzard pleaded with other states to donate doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

States including Victoria and South Australia rejected the same plea yesterday.

“Last time I looked, we were a Commonwealth — we worked together, and it disturbs me that all we’ve ever done to work together has just seemingly been cast aside,” he said. 

Sydney’s stay at home orders are being extended, with the Cumberland and Blacktown LGAs now included. That means only authorised workers can leave those areas. Mr Hazzard said the worst-hit areas were mostly in Sydney’s west and south-west. 

“[It’s] transmission particularly as a result of family members getting together when they just should not be getting together. We also are seeing transmission in shops and in other workplaces, ” he said.

Earlier, more venues were added to the list of COVID-19 exposure sites across New South Wales. You can see the full list here.

Victoria
An individual dressed in protective gear cleaning inside a market.
Cleaners were brought to the Prahran Market in Melbourne for deep clean after it was designated as a tier 1 exposure site this week.(ABC News: Darryl Torpy)

Twelve new locally acquired cases were recorded today, 10 of them were in quarantine for their entire infectious period.

Five cases are linked to the AAMI Park outbreak, three to Ms Frankie’s restaurant in Cremorne and two to an apartment complex in Richmond.

Health Minister Martin Foley said the decrease in daily cases was a positive sign the lockdown was working and could be lifted next week, if the trend continued.

Victoria has also introduced a travel permit system designating areas across Australia and New Zealand as green, orange, red or extreme risk zones.

The change came into effect at midnight, with New South Wales declared an extreme risk zone.

It means those entering Victoria under that classification without an exemption will be put on a return flight or placed into 14 days mandatory hotel quarantine.

Anyone who attempts to enter Victoria illegally faces fines of more than $5,000.

Another 400 exposure sites, mostly in Melbourne’s city centre and inner-east, were also added to the exposure site list overnight. 

South Australia

South Australia has recorded one new case of COVID-19 today, and it’s linked to other cases at a winery north-east of Adelaide.

The person was in quarantine, and it brings the state’s total in the current outbreak to 16.

Premier Steven Marshall said the state was on track to come out of lockdown next week.

Mr Marshall said repatriation flights scheduled to arrive in Adelaide on Monday and Tuesday would be cancelled. 

Queensland

Queensland has recorded zero new locally acquired COVID-19 cases today, although contract tracing will continue amid an alert involving a flight attendant. 

The Brisbane woman in her thirties tested positive on Thursday and was potentially infectious while working on QantasLink flights to-and-from Longreach, Gladstone and Hervey Bay on the 11th and 12th of July. 

The woman has the Delta strain which is circulating in Sydney.

Western Australia

Western Australia has recorded no new COVID-19 cases today.

WA Health are still monitoring 9 active cases: eight cases remain aboard the BBC California currently berthed at Fremantle Port and one case is in hotel quarantine.

ACT, Northern Territory & Tasmania.

There have been no new cases of COVID-19 reported in the ACT, Northern Territory or Tasmania today.

UK – Mid 2021, A Case Study and Experiment on Living with Covid-19.

Fully Vaccinated? Still Potentially Infectious.

The start was frightening. As if proof that being fully vaccinated does not prevent disease, it was revealed on July 172021, that the UK minister for health minster had tested positive and went into quarantine. To add to the confusion, the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson who has previously been infected and fully vaccinated but is a close contact of the health minister, initially stated he would not enter quarantine only to ‘backflip’ and later announce he would enter quarantine.

This also fits with data from Australia of cases on the rise among fully vaccinated people. Note that hospitalisation of fully vaccinated people is dramatically reduced.

According to UK data released last month, two doses of Pfizer and AstraZeneca are respectively 96% and 92% effective against hospitalisation from the Delta variant.

The Guardian, July 16th 2021.

Case For Optimism?

Unlike Belgium, where just a week after opening cases surged and the country went almost immediately back into lockdown, in the UK cases since the 19th of July, the end lockdown date, have fallen. On the other side, deaths have risen to around 100 per day.

more to be added as July data is complete.

Conclusion.

‘Ending’ this pandemic by ‘living with’ Covid-19 does not feel like a true ‘end’, and despite the China origin theories, the risk of more pandemics to follow is very real, and leave humanity accruing a collection of diseases requiring periodic vaccination.

To me, it seems like yet another case where global governance is required for a true real world solution.

(more to be added as the experiment is evaluated)

Australia in the Pandemic: Eye of the storm?

This is a snapshot of the pandemic as of March 2021, looking at what life is like in Sydney Australia, and looking out at the world.

The most recent case of a person infected in NSW , the state with Sydney as its capital, outside of quarantine was on March 17th and was a person working with arrivals in quarantine. In this case, the person infected was asymptomatic, and was the first case in 50 days. The general picture in NSW, and Australia in general, is that cases of Covid-19 are very rare right now. Is this the end of the pandemic, or the calm before the storm?

Continue reading “Australia in the Pandemic: Eye of the storm?”

Dilemma: Should Facebook own the Internet (or world)?

From common dreams article. Facebook’s Internet.org Isn’t the Internet, It’s Facebooknet

Since Facebook launched and entered the influence industry, they have been running what sounds like a deal almost ‘too good to be true’. Using Facebook, you can have your own place on the web, completely for free. While there are many, many, organisations that will host your web site for a price, Facebook will host a website for you, completely for free. An internet presence for all, with no charge!

Or is it?

I have always felt uneasy about how all this works, but have previously not given the question sufficient attention to pin down the exact problem. Is there such a thing as a free lunch aftercall?

This exploration is a work in progress on a journey to answer: Facebook, a problem, or not? Currently becoming relatively cohesive at update no 3 as of March 2, with a possible further update March 8.

Continue reading “Dilemma: Should Facebook own the Internet (or world)?”

Covid-19 Complacency: Why?

This post is on ‘the reasons for complacency’, I will cover the impact of complacency in another post. Despite governments either advising, or even requiring, adherence to a set of guidelines, people do not always comply. In the end non-compliance stems from a personal judgement that any negative outcomes from non-compliance are either overstated, or are really only negative outcomes for people other than themselves.

In simple terms, there is too much complacency about the impact of negative outcomes. In fact many people do not even understand the threats and resultant negative outcomes.

Reasons for Complacency:

  • It’s a Conspiracy
  • Myth: 99% of cases are ‘totally harmless’
  • The Nanny State vs Human Rights
  • A Political Statement.
  • Myth: Covid-19 is almost totally an ‘old people’s problem’
  • Policy: It is OK, Some Cases are to be expected!
  • Economic Cost Can Require Complacency.
  • Media: Misleading Statistics
  • Conclusion: Missing the point of needing the medical system.

Its all a Conspiracy!

One reason for complacency is that there is a percentage of the community that believes the Covid-19 is the result of some form of conspiracy. There is clear evidence that some conspiracy theories were even started by governments. Governments seeking to damage society in other countries, and also that several conspiracy theories have been ‘fuelled’ by government sponsored campaigns. However, some theories may also have grown all by themselves, and spread by true believers across social media.

Theories would be unlikely to be take hold in the manner they have without a degree of unrest and disillusionment within the sectors of society where they spread. I will look at recording stats on actual theories and how many people believe them as I come across them. Suffice for now that such theories, provide a base of people who simply do not believe the risks are real.

No conspiracy theory advocate would be convinced otherwise by anything I write here, but that people will believe the entire globe of governments would conspire together shows the strength of the disillusionment. Some governments conspiring against the citizens…ok… but every government globally, and no opposition party in the entire world exposing the conspiracy?

Myth: 99% of cases are ‘totally harmless’.

While this does inaccurately understate individual risk, the primary need for action to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is the risk to others. Even if only 1 in 100 people die, that would be 3 million people in America alone. Globally it would be between 70 and 80 million people.

Anyone who can catch the virus through contact with others, can also spread the virus through contact with others. One infected person in Wuhan has already led to over 1/2 a million deaths. Any spread can trigger a cluster, and without significant steps to stop a cluster, there will easily be 100 infected people, meaning statistically someone will die.

The reality is that being totally careless with regards to Covid-19 will, statistically, likely kill someone. Yet that point is lost in a world of ‘that is other people, it is one 1 in 100 I will kill myself!”

The Nanny State vs Human Rights

There are laws in many states and/or countries that are considered by some people as ‘nanny state’ laws, such as requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets.

Some people interpret rules requiring social distancing and/or face masks as being within this same category. Some of these people rebel against such rules, feeling it is their right to risk their own life, and the state should be their choice as to whether they see their lives as at risk.

The mistake is the assumption these rules are for ‘own protection’. The chance of a single person dying as the result of an infection is less than 1%. The chances of a person who, by ignoring guidelines, becoming infected and then starts a chain of infections that results in 100 infected people is very likely. The reason for the rules is not the ‘nanny state’, but rather the rules are their to prevent people from behaviour that will kill others.

Covid-19 may be better compared to the more universal rule that riding a motorcycle at speed into a crowd of pedestrians is illegal. It may harm the rider, but the reason it is illegal is that it is far more certain to harm someone else.

In a world of black lives matter, it becomes too easy to assume authorities are not acting in the best interests of the community. To look for a way to interpret the rules as intrusive.

A Political Statement.

Initially the declaration was that Covid-19 is “just another ‘flu”. In some cases that declarations has morphed into “it is over now” or “it is going away”. All these positions downplay the seriousness of Covid-19 and represent a common a political stance. Advocates adopting this position include specific politicians and political commentators.

The contradiction is that the adoption of this ‘downplaying’ stance by political leaders has a strong correlation with a severe outbreak in the country they lead.

Think USA, Brazil. Every effort to downplay the seriousness, increases complacency which in turn makes the outbreak more severe. The more severe the outbreak, the more important it becomes to those same leaders to try to hide the seriousness of the problem.

The vicious cycle leads to a political movement, with leaders, supportive media, and a sector of the general community as supporters, all championing an attitude of complacency which translates to a worse outbreak.

Myth: Covid-19 is almost totally an ‘old people’s problem’

There are 3 levels of problem with this statement:

  • firstly, the longer outbreaks continue, the more they seem to infect even children. It may be worse in older people, but others still die
  • secondly, even if it was mostly older people, is the suggestion that we should we just let older become ill or people die?
  • thirdly, would closing to health system to older people or people with this disease, because the main problem is that without distancing, lockdowns and masks, Covid-19 creates an overrun health system regardless of the age of the patients. A health system overrun by Covid-19 then has diminished ability to treat anyone, not to mention the illnesses and deaths amongst health care workers.

Policy Statements: It is Ok, Some Cases are to be expected

Government policy often suggests that there is a level of cases that does not represent a problem. Even though just one case was enough to start the entire global pandemic, that it is as if somethings has changed and now there is a number of cases that is not a problem.

Reality is, any country where there is community spread requires measures to prevent that spread growing until the medical system is overloaded. At least until there is a vaccine or ‘herd immunity’. ‘Up-beat’ messages designed to lift stock markets or consumer confidence, suggesting ‘all is over’ without to an effective vaccine or herd immunity, are not only premature, but can be economically damaging. Complacency can drive increases in case numbers, which force lock-downs and cause economic damage.

The temptation for better economic numbers, and gaining credit for solving a problem, too often lead tp premature claims the problem is solved.

Economic costs can force a complacent response.

Acting ‘Covid-19’ responsibly means:

  1. wearing a mask
  2. social distancing
  3. if symptomatic, or exposed to risk of infection:
    • self quarantine until test results are available
  4. Having a positive test result:
    • follow quarantine until cleared of infection

Wearing a mask, requires masks being available, but provided they are, the the economic cost is low. Non-compliance should be limited to cases of masks being unavailable, but of course will reflect objectors or those overly complacent.

Social Distancing can come at economic cost as it can prevent people earning a living. Typically similar circumstances will apply across an entire industry, but while governments have schemes to assist, there can be people not covered by such schemes who may need, and be able to, keep working even though it may break social distancing rules. It is up to governments and society to ensure equity for all in such circumstances, avoiding people being driven to break rules for economic reasons when everyone is in the same situation.

If symptomatic or exposed to risk of infection, then individuals face being in a different situation to the rest of their industry, needing to self quarantine while others in their industry may still be working. Without some form of sufficient compensation, individuals may not be able to afford to comply with regulations.

Having a positive test result means even further quarantine, and possibly further loss of income. This should be easier for governments to cover with assistance schemes as:

  • this should be a far smaller group than the numbers needing to quarantine while waiting for results
  • people hopefully will only ever have one case of Covid-19, thus only one period requiring these benefits, whilst there may be several occurrences of waiting for test results.

In an ideal world, each of the economic incentives to act in a complacent manner

Media: Misleading Statistics

The media highlights the most sensational data, but can overlook the most significant. The main reporting conveys:

  • total/daily confirmed cases
  • total/daily deaths
  • quarantine and distancing measures in place

This paints a picture: there are cases, these can lead to deaths, and to prevent the deaths we need quarantine/distancing measures.

The picture is misleading, and can create the impression it is only because of the deaths that quarantine/distancing/masks etc are required. This results in people feeling they should be able to decide their own balance between measures and their own risk of death.

I suggest the most important data should be:

  • net hospitalisations & resulting hospital capacity
  • ICU numbers/capacity and deaths
  • quarantine/distancing measures

In other words, keep the figures linked to the key problem that drives lockdowns, the pressure on the medical system. Replacing ‘positive test numbers’, which are effected by how many tests are being done and can even create resistance to testing, people being admitted to hospital is really only effected by how many people are falling ill.

It would be far better for reporting to link the measures required to the actual reasons people should follow those measures. The reasons to follow the measures effect almost everybody, not just those who die.

Conclusion: Missing the point that we need our medical system.

There are three groups of logic:

  1. it is all a hoax
  2. I just cannot afford to act as if the threat is real
  3. it is someone else’s problem.

Defending against the hoax claims is difficult, but it would seem logical this also falls in with feeling the problem is either not real or some one else’s problem. If there was a real effort to communicate the problem with the widest impact, and the key reason for lockdowns, both logic numbers 1 and 3 could have less impact.

As for the economic reasons for adopting an attitude of complacency, towards the virus, that comes down to a response from government.

Covid Australia II: Luck Running out ?

The Virus Strikes Back.

Around 4 weeks ago Australia ‘the lucky ‘country’ had almost stumbled to eradication of Covid-19, but and I had the feeling that the luck was in danger or running out. Now, 4 weeks later, the situation has deteriorated. That deterioration calls into question the the official ‘suppression not eradication’ strategy. This posts looks at what has happened, together with the suppression/eradication debate.

There may be lessons for any country trying to address Covid-19 at low case numbers in considering the risks posed by allowing a small number of cases that can form clusters requiring suppression, and the difficult of achieving local suppression.

Continue reading “Covid Australia II: Luck Running out ?”

Covid-19 & Australia: Lucky Country?

Currently (at time of writing) in Australia, life is relatively ‘covid free’. Restaurants and shops are open, sports are being played, and even without limits on crowd numbers in some states. Yes, just over 100 people have died, but the last death now seems a long time ago. Not quite the success of a star like, Taiwan, but still a relatively positive outcome. There is a phrase made famous by a book of the same name: Australia, the lucky country and Covid-19 so far makes the tag seem correct.

This post reviews the ‘luck’ so far, as at June 2020, and challenge ahead.

That ‘luck’ will now face a new challenge, most of Australia completely exiting lockdown while still being able to ‘suppress’ small outbreaks as they emerge. Australia provides and interesting test case for the practically of completely lifting social distancing.

Covid-19 in Austrlalia:

Continue reading “Covid-19 & Australia: Lucky Country?”

Politics. Left & Right: Merit = Wealth?

The labels ‘left’ and ‘right’ date back to French Revolution in 1789, but that history hardly conveys what the terms mean today. This post reviews that original concept and history, and looks further into how the concepts have evolved into todays positions of ‘left’ and ‘right’. This post starts discussion on how the concepts apply in politics today, and while using Australia as an example, the principles are quite applicable globally.

  • Example of Right Ideology
  • Example of Left Ideology
  • The Implications: Merit = Wealth?
  • The Centre
  • Case Study: Tennis & Effort vs Merit vs Wealth
  • The Politics of Envy: Who Should run a country?
  • Conclusion: Australian Election

Example Of the Right Ideology

The leader of the Coalition ‘right’ party in the coming federal election in Australia has a motto: ‘a fair go for those who have a go’. This could be interpreted as ‘financial success for those who try hard and earn their success’.

The policy to deliver this ‘fair go’ is to keep taxes flatter for the highest earners, because it seems illogical to tax people at a higher rate simply because the work harder.

Example of the Left Ideology

The Labor Party (left) wants to have higher taxes on the ‘top end of town’, in order to fund greater social welfare. Their plan is that those who can most affort it, should contribute more to society.

The Implications: Merit = Wealth?

The position of the ‘right’ of a ‘fair go for those who have a go’ being achieved by tax reductions for the highest earners, is that the highest earners are those who are ‘having a go’. Logically it follows that those on lower incomes are clearly not sufficiently ‘having a go’. The position of the right is that merit can be determined by wealth as those ‘who have a go’ will enivably aquire wealth.

The right: Merit = Wealth undefined

The position of the left that those who have less wealth may be deseving more, for example increasing health for all from common (taxed) funding are taking the oppostie position.

The left: Merit = Wealth undefined

Truth is that given all else is equal, for two individuals who have the same opportunity, skill set and training, the individual working harder should generate more wealth. However, in world where globaly inequality is on the increase, all else is rarely equal. In fact, wealth already in place may have a bigger impact on the generation of further wealth than merit. So determining merit through wealth may only be possible if everyone starts with the same initial wealth.

The Centre.

The most extremes views are that merit can always be determined soley by wealth in all cases (extreme right) , on the other extreme, that there is absolutely no link (or perhaps an inverse link?) between merit and wealth in all cases(extreme left). The left argue that as current wealth may also be determined by initial wealth or ‘privilege’, any link is at least unreliable in practice. Political parties are almost all somewhere on this continuum between the extreme views, generally major parties being just to the left, of right, of a central balanced view. Most major parties have member who do believe that there both cases where wealth is linked to merit, and cases where wealth is not linked to merit.

The ‘top end of town’ is the same group the right identifies as, logically, the hardest working! The left often believes that same group are those who have enjoyed initial privilege. The right wants to give them even more incentive, the left to tax them. The debate between left and right often becomes a debate about just how true is the statement that the wealthy represent those of greatest merit, and the hardest working.

The ‘right’ is not normally so extreme as to believe that only those who prosper are deserving of reward, and the ‘left’ is not normally so extreme as to believe sucess should not be celebrated. While a very extreme right would logically channel all further resources and rewards to those students or athletes who already perform well, a very extreme left would resist giving ribbons for coming first in a running race and insist on only having participation awards.

In Australia, and most countries, the ‘right’ and ‘left’ parties are both a balance of ‘left’ and ‘right’, with the differnce between parties being the perception of where the correct balance lies. The Coalition party in Australia has a mixture of members

Case Study: Tennis & Effort vs Merit vs Wealth.

Consider the ‘sport’ of professional tennis as a model, as results in this profession are very public. Roger Federer has the greatest earnings in the sport, but does it follow that there is not one single other player that works as hard at the sport as he does? At the very highest level, all players do all work hard. Just below that highest level there seem to be some individuals who work less, still most of that next tier group work as hard as the highest tier. Below that very top tier, as you move down the rankings it does not seem that the number who fail to apply themselves fully increases.

The link between wealth and merit is not purely that effort = merit, but also that talent = merit. Almost all agree that the best male player should earn the greatest wealth…but how much greater than a lower player providing the same effort is the subject of debate. Should the top ranked female player earn the same as the top ranked male player, even if that male player would win a match between the two is alse the subject of debate. Again, this is somewhat a debate between ‘right’ and ‘left’ ideologies.

The best predictor of tennis ranking, and therefore pay, is seen as talent, not work ethic. Work ethic does play a role, but not the only role. Another component is opportunity. The rare opportunity to be coached at tennis, in an elite tennis facilty, from a young age is a far more decisive selector of who succeed than almost any other factor. This model from tennis is quite relevant to most careers, and the opportunity to even have a tennis career, can also apply to most careeers.

The Politics of Merit & Envy: Who Should People Vote For?

Political parties all sit somewhere on the spectrum between extreme left and right.

It would seem obvious that the rich would believe wealth does result from merit and they should not be taxed just to distribute their wealth to those who do not merit that wealth. Thus they should vote for the right.

It would also seem obvious those who are not part of the group who are extremely wealthy should believe in the ‘Robin Hood’ approach of more taxes for the wealthy and desire more distribution of wealth. Thus they will vote for the left.

However, sometimes the wealthy do feel they should contribute more and is their wealth should be used to help more. In fact there is an interesting trend in which groups of the wealthy tend to feel this way, but that will be saved for another post.

Counterbalancing that “some rich voting to help the society overall rather than focus on helping the rich”, we have some from outside the wealth group voting to focus on more benefits for that wealthy group. The motives include:

  • that voting to distribute wealth is the ‘politics of envy’ and even those who are not part of that wealthy group indeed do not deserve to part of the wealthy group
  • the wealthy group has earnt the most merit and the more we empower those of greatest merit the better for all
  • These people are most practiced at generating wealth and voting against policies to most empower the wealthy is voting against generating wealth
  • People who propose moving to the left are inherently incapable of managing things as evidenced by them voting for taxing those who are proven managers

The end result is it is not always obvious how any group will vote.

Conclusion: Australian Election?

The Australian election should be a poll on ‘have we moved too far to the right as a society”, but it is more complex. Most do seem to agree the answer to the question is yes, but still they fear change. Even though we may have moved too far to the right, many may feel, and are being encouraged to feel, that there is a financial cost to any change to this trend. Even if the current trend is that only the rich are getting richer, and most people are getting poorer, we need to stay on that trend as any other path is a risk.

So the election will be as much a question on how many people fear change, as it is poll on if the current direction is working.

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