Panic and the Pandemic 'Down Under': The Ultimate Unseen Enemy
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In the southeastern corner of Australia a State of Emergency has replaced what was known until recently only as the State of Victoria. The unseen enemy has been a fact of modern life since the 1950s but at least the red under the bed could be seen if found. COVID-19 is the ultimate unseen enemy, because it literally cannot be seen except through a microscope and noon knows where it is and when it will strike.
The panic generated by the spread of the virus is completely disproportionate to the risk of dying from it. Between late January and July 1, 2020, 2,505, 923 people were tested for COVID-19 in Australia. As updated by Worldometer on July 3, of the 8255 cases that tested positive, 7319 had recovered. A further 832 cases were still active (99 percent in mild condition; of the 7423 'closed' cases 99 percent of those infected had recovered and one percent (104) had died.
Figures issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that of the deaths associated with COVID-19, no-one below the age of 39 had died. In the 40-49 age bracket, there had been one death; 50-59, two; 60-69, 13; 70-79, 31; 80-89, 35; over 90, 20. Thus, well over 80 of the 104 deaths were in the 70s-90s age bracket.
By comparison 3334 Australians died from influenza/pneumonia in 2016 (median age 88.8). In 2017 the figure was 4269 (median age 88.3): in 2018, 3102 (median age 89.3). In the same year, 2952 Australians died from accidental falls, their median age 87.3. A further 3046 Australians died from "intentional self-harm" and hundreds of others from traffic accidents or drowning. This is not to underplay the seriousness of the COVID-19 virus but only to put it into perspective and the context of deaths from other causes.
The figures for influenza deaths in 2019 have not yet been published. According to a report published on August 18, 2019, however, even before the influenza season (June-September) was over 430 people had already died (some deaths were attributed to other causes despite showing "flu-like symptoms)." Hospitals were said to be "overrun," with nearly 217,000 people diagnosed with the illness and "experts" believing the final death toll could could be much higher.  The Queensland government's Ministry of Health confirmed that 264 people in Queensland alone had died.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one billion people around the world get the flu every year, with a loose estimate of 290,000-650,000 deaths, compared to the number of people misleadingly listed by the WHO as dying 'of' the COVID-19 virus: 472, 541 by June 23, 2020, and more than half a million by the end of the month. Despite the comparatively high global death toll from influenza, only five pandemics have been declared in more than a century, the worst of them in 1918 and the most recent after the 'swine flu' outbreak of 2009.
While COVID-19 may be 'a' cause of the 104 deaths it is not generally 'the' cause. Those who die are listed as having been infected with the virus and its significance in their deaths remains unknown. Most of those infected have other serious and possibly terminal diseases likely to end their lives anyway (only about four percent of those said to have been infected with the virus when they died had no preconditions) and statements that people have died 'from' the virus or 'of' the virus, as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) on its website, are misleading.
Doctors in the UK are authorized to list the virus as a cause of death on the clinical "balance of probabilities." In Australia doctors are instructed that COVID-19 should be recorded on the death certificate when the disease caused "or is assumed to have caused or contributed" to the death. The doctors might be right but probabilities and assumptions are hardly scientific as a means of assessing the causes of death. Bearing this in mind, the veracity of the statistics has to be regarded with some caution.
A further issue in COVID-19 control is the reliability of the basic WHO-approved test for the virus, which two investigators have concluded after detailed research is "scientifically meaningless." Many deaths associated with COVID-19 have occurred in nursing or aged care homes, where the Swiss Policy Research Institute estimates that up to 30 percent may ultimately have been caused not by the virus but by the consequences of the lockdown, including isolation, panic and fear.
Australian politicians will insist that without the lockdown the figures would have been much higher. This will forever remain a moot point but other countries have come through well without adopting such restrictive measures as Australian governments, Singapore, Japan and Taiwan among them.
Sweden, on the other hand, the bad boy of the pandemic, took minimal measures and suffered a comparatively high death toll of 5280, 51.85 deaths per 100,000 or a 8.1 fatality rate per 100,000. Of the deaths, 1151 were in the 70-79 age bracket and 2191 in their 80s to 90s, a total of 3342 deaths, more than two-thirds of the total, suggesting that while Sweden was correct in thinking that no more than minimal restrictions were necessary for the general population, it failed to provide sufficient protection for the most vulnerable, the aged and seriously ill.
In the state of Victoria 20 people infected with COVID-19 had died by the end of June, 2020 (compared to 68 deaths from influenza in 2016 and 297 in 2017). The battle to contain the virus is being led by the Premier, Daniel Andrews, an aspiring or professional politician since he left university, and his Health Minister, Jenny Mikakos, a tax lawyer before she went into politics. They have closed down schools and businesses. Tens of thousands of people have been thrown out of work and the center of Melbourne turned into a dead zone. In a city that is a magnet for young people, with hundreds of bars and other music 'venues, the 'hospitality' sector has been severely affected.
While staff can claim unemployment benefits, restaurant and bar owners have been hung out to dry, with the government that closed their businesses offering nothing beyond small dollops of financial support and the suggestion that they take out bank loans. Many will go under (some already have) and others will be saddled with debt if/when they are able to reopen. The easing of restrictions can mean little in practice, when owners of a 'music venue' have to apply a 'density quotient' of one person per four square meters. This obviously rules out the numerous small bars where people like to meet because they ARE small and therefore cozy.
The politicians, the police, the health 'experts' and the media are all speaking with one voice. There is no two-way conversation between the state and the people but a monologue, with the government and its ancillary forces telling the people what they have to do, what they have to understand, as the media frequently puts it. In the name of suppressing the pandemic the dividing line between the authoritarian state and the liberal democracy is gradually being erased.
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