April 17, 2020
Dr Rawiri Taonui | Pandemic or Panicdemic?
Pandemic or Panicdemic?
Dr Rawiri Taonui
The government will decide next Monday on whether we stay at Level 4 or move to Level 3. We have significant control of COVID-19. However, we will not want to risk a resurgent outbreak.
COVID-19 will remain dangerous. There is no vaccine for COVID-19. COVID-19 is more infectious than the flu. It is not as infectious at SARS (2002-2003) but is infectious over a longer period. The rapid speed at which COVID-19 spread around the globe and the number of infections in the clusters in New Zealand tells us that the disease spreads very rapidly. Caution and safety must inform the decision.
When restrictions are lifted, it is important to manage two risks, an outbreak caused by a person who is sick but not aware of it, and infection from overseas travel. Our restrictions re: mandatory 14-day isolation and/or quarantine will control overseas travel. It will be more difficult to tell if or how many people currently in lockdown are carrying the virus and unaware they are sick. Testing will need to remain active and high.
Academics accuse Government of Over-reaction
A small group of academics led by Dr Simon Thornley from Auckland University, alongside alr-right anti-Ardern commentators Mike Hosking and Barry Soper, have said we should come out of Level 4.
They claim the risk from COVID-19 was overestimated, the lockdown always an over-reaction, that because of age and comorbidities the deaths thus far would have to happen anyway and that many more people die from flu each year than COVID-19. Thornley specifically claims that COVID-19 is ‘not much more severe than seasonal flu’.
This is disingenuous sub-undergraduate nonsense. That we now have a lower number of cases, has to do with the fact that we locked down early, and, more crucially, when COVID-19 infections were at a low 205. Other Western countries did not, and devastation was the result: Italy, Spain, France, Belgium and the USA.
Making a comparison with the flu is irresponsible. Figures from London, Britain, show that
the peak of deaths there has exceeded by far any peak in deaths from flu over any time during the previous 10 years.
Moreover, as world-wide infections reach 2.2 million, the death rate from identified cases is 6.7%. This is 670 times higher than the usual death rate from seasonal flu at 0.1%. And, older people are not the only ones at risk. The USA reports death rates for under 70 years olds of 43% in Louisiana and 49% in Georgia. In Louisiana, 21% of deaths were aged under 40. High numbers of sick and dying young people are reported in New York, Colorado and Illinois
Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong, who were among the first countries to gain control of COVID-19, and the first to relax restrictions, are now reporting new waves of the disease. Two weeks ago, cases in Hong Kong doubled from 400 to 900 when restrictions were lifted. Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong have re-introduced restrictions.
For these reasons, several countries have announced they were remaining in extended lockdowns: India, Britain, France, Argentina, Japan, Lebanon, Colombia, Italy and Belgium are extending their lockdowns to the last week of April or first week of May.
We can note that 62 of the colleagues of the 6 errant thinkers at Auckland University have signed a letter opposing their recommendations. We can also note that 66% of respondents to an NZ Herald poll were supportive of lengthening the lockdown if that is what it will take to control COVID-19.
Academics have the right in their roles to act as the conscience of society to challenge and critique the actions of the government. They also have a duty of integrity over the facts and moral responsibility to comment with the best interests of the welfare of the community to the fore. Their comments are contrary to those obligations. Consequently, they should be laid off in the first wave of any university redundancies that might eventuate after lockdown. As they might very well appreciate, if this is how they usually conduct themselves, they are terminal anyway.
Two Men Suing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Two men are suing the Prime Minister claiming that this is not a pandemic but a panicdemic. They claim the PM should have consulted the Secretary-General of the UN before going to lockdown and that the lockdown means they are being illegally detained.
They are idiots. The Health Act allows the government to proceed with the State of Emergency. The case will be thrown out. The two men have name suppression because they have concerns about their safety. We are in lockdown because the PM has concerns about the safety of all New Zealanders.
Noho haumaru, stay safe and self-sovereign, Dr Rawiri Taonui
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