Time to eliminate the virus

Via The Guardian comes Tony Blakely, professor of epidemiology at the University of Melbourne.:

Is elimination even achievable now? It is not a hard argument to run that the virus has got its hooks into too many nooks and crannies in Victoria to easily dislodge. True, it is not going to be easy. But we also know that hard lockdowns work.

The case numbers, surely, will fall. And if we stay in stage four lockdown, we will eventually eliminate community transmission. The question is how long Victoria would have to stay in stage four to achieve this. We do not know the answer to this question yet. Perhaps in two to three weeks, we might have enough data to model it or hazard a guess. The issue will then become whether achieving elimination of community transmission is worth the economic and social costs of a stage four lockdown.

Numbers being thrown around at the moment are of a six-week hard lockdown costing Victoria and the country about $9bn. Such costs are high. But so too is the cost of not eliminating the virus, and having to live in a spluttering economy – going in and out of lockdown – until a vaccine hopefully arrives.

$9bn is a goddamn drop in the bucket. Especially so given deficits no longer matter.

As a third-time lucky lockdown recipient, let me tell you that we need to kill this sucker or life will become an unliveable groundhog day.

Which is why I find the following to be hysterical garbage:

I pointed out how loony this was on Monday. Today, a chastened and defensive Creighton fires back:

If social media is any guide it is our intelligence, rather than our health, that has been dealt a heavier blow by the coronavirus pandemic and the vested interests that benefit from it. The debate about how to respond to the virus has been undermined by widespread ignorance and the plethora of fallacies that surely call for compulsory teaching of logic in schools.

Jeez, mate. Hypocrisy much!

The truth may hurt, Adam. But not as much as the repeated lockdowns that transpire under the suppression strategy which are now a matter of historical record.

Not to mention that the federation makes the switch to elimination almost inevitable, with sick VIC and NSW now isolated permanently. Assuming VIC whips the virus this time, there is NO WAY it will open up to a still sick NSW. So the Premier State will become Australia’s health and economic leper colony.

Nobody is arguing that New Zealand is perfect. There’ll be an adjustment for it, too, as it loses activity in some external sectors. Though today’s 4% unemployment rate looks awfully good versus Australia’s 7.2% and the path to 10% plus (not to mention the real, much higher number).

A few months of pain and recession for a long term fortress economy is a lot better than repeated failures of suppression in terms of quality of life and economic outcomes over the stretch.

David Llewellyn-Smith
Latest posts by David Llewellyn-Smith (see all)


  1. This is the guy who wants people to wear masks in their own homes

    Even the Australian government says elimination is impossible

    so, we are going to eliminate every other respiratory virus at the same time?
    They all spread the same way, and common cold and other rhinoviruses even more infective than covid-19
    So we should theoretically be able to elimintae sore throats, sniffles and runny noses forever, right?

    Why does no one address this inconsistency?

      • Mate – did you forget Covid-19 CAME from animals?

        It therefore obviously has an animal reservoir, like swine flu and avian flu

        I believe even domestic pets have tested positive

        • Yes, but as best we know, Chinese bats are the main host and fairly avoidable.

          Chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, not so much.

          • They’re not usually kept in giant flocks. Transmission vectors are minimal before the virus is beaten by their immune system. Birds as far as we know, can’t get it. If it turns out they can, we’re screwed.

            Cmon man, think a bit.

          • Most influenza strains are not spread from animals

            Rhinoviruses, adenoviruses, coronaviruses, parainfluenza etc etc all do not have animal reservoirs

            Are you saying they are all going to be eliminated?

            Come on man

        • Mate – COVID-19 came from a lab. Manufactured and does not exist in animals – they can’t find it anywhere in the wild in animals. It’s only travelling in people in Australia. It might not make ‘scientific’ sense but it certainly feels like ‘common sense’.

          There would be overwhelming support for an elimination strategy in Australia. More popular than [email protected] Marriage – let’s have a plebiscite!

          • Anon,

            Nothing but a load of conspiracy theory bs! Australia’s leading virologists have stated numerous times that it’s DNA shows it was not created in a lab.

            Grow up for goodness sakes!

          • @dennis
            Not created in a lab but escaped from a lab.
            The proposition is that it was being used for research to create a vaccine for SARS. No one will ever know for sure (the CCP has had all records destroyed) but it is definately plausible based on the information we have about the research that was being done in Wuhan at the time.

          • @dennis You mean other scientists who’s continued funding and research relies on this not coming from a like-minded lab, somewhere? And all the arguments I’ve heard that it wasn’t “lab made” related to computer models not guessing the spike protein as being effective; with oddly zero mention of “gain of function” research. Mix in the 2018 diplomatic cables raising issues at the lab, the French getting kicked out of China’s first Level 4 BioLab, all evidence being destroyed (including the entire market)… if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck… one must *entertain* the real possibility that it just might be… a duck.

    • So your point here is something akin to:

      why is nobody addressing the “inconsistency” of attempting to eliminate SARS-COV-2 whilst not explicitly seeking to eliminate other respiratory viruses that how much lower mortality/morbidity and are “even more infective”?

      I might’ve thought that’s a question that answers itself.

      • That’s a very sharp argument regarding mental speed, excellent contribution.

        I’ll continue to indulge the comparison for the sake of argument.

        Have you considered that maybe the elimination of these other viruses would be harder (as you say they are “even more infective”) and the cost of them continuing to circulate is much lower (i.e. significantly lower rates of mortality/morbidity)?

        Sure, these other viruses bring about costs (e.g. death, loss of productivity) but these aren’t proportionate to the potential costs of their elimination. Compare that with SARS-COV-2 which has much higher ‘costs’ (and a good degree of uncertainty around those costs).

    • No. The govt says elimination is impossible with the borders being open. So their entire premise is “keep borders open” and then answer the question on whether virus can be eliminated. The answer is obviously no.
      But they never want to ever address whether it is achievable with closed borders. Because that would involve changing all their budget estimates to have no population ponzi embedded in them and come up with a decent economic policy for a change.

      Meanwhile all the anti-lockdowners ignore this:
      Sydney appears to be going into semi-isolation all of its own accord with levels of travel falling and bars and restaurants reporting days when barely a person walks in.
      One business owner told news.com.au the situation was “absolutely devastating” and there were now so few customers she might be forced to let her staff go and close down until the crisis passes, despite being allowed to open.
      The population self imposes a lockdown if the virus runs free. Happened last time and happening again. No lockdown in NSW and still the activity is weaning.
      The problem is of trust. People of WA and QLD trust that their leaders will do what it takes to protect them. Lockdowns arent essential but trust is. No use screaming for no lockdowns if there is a lack of trust in govt. People will lockdown themselves and you have all the same economic and health outcomes of a lockdown anyway.

      • BornwildMEMBER

        This!!! People have to realise that its not Govts locking down economies, its the virus. If people are fearful, they will impose self-lockdowns. We have all sorts of experiments being run across the world right now that we can learn from. I’m yet to see a country where the economy is doing well and the virus is running free.

        • Arthur Schopenhauer

          +10 If the government doesn’t lock down, people will and the economy will suffer.

          Locking down hard without an elimination strategy is madness.

        • 800 people who were supposed to be in lock down would say you are wrong.

          Some people refuse to stay inside when they should.

      • The population self imposes a lockdown if the virus runs free

        Exactly what happened in Sweden, although the let-er-rip free-market neolib psychopaths will never admit it.

        • PalimpsestMEMBER

          with the proviso that here some employers put enormous pressure on employees to stay at work. One prominent Vic law firm did not support work from home and had several cases in their work force, and another, with live cases in their workforce, was actually taking the workers to ‘fair work’ tribunal to force workers to come in (and then they were shut down). It takes a Government mandated shut down to address this behaviour unfortunately.

    • Just read the linked opinion piece from Dr Coatsworth.

      Seems like we’re playing definition games. The warning that Coatsworth provides is against complacency given the ‘elimination’ of community transmission. “No country or part of a country can assume that a period of local elimination is protection against further community outbreaks.” However, in “… Australia, we will continue to strive for local elimination wherever possible. We remain one of the world’s most successful nations in the fight against COVID-19”.

      I’m not sure how you can read that piece as being inconsistent with HnH.

    • It’s amazing how we haven’t been sick all winter like normal here in Tas. Best winter ever.
      I do understand the argument that we’re all going to have to catch up and get all the flu’s we’ve missed out on once the tourists are flowing in from their tropical plague nations again though. Which will be hell.

    • Yeah right, from a Gov that is against border lockdowns and then decides that it isn’t safe for parliament to convene. This attitude then is backed up by the CMO, which imo shows he has become part of the political process, instead of an independent advisor.

      What’s your vested interest in no lockdown, Coming?

  2. If they were serious about getting the numbers down quickly – there would be a full construction, takeaway food, bottle shop, and meat processing shutdown.

    Keep the 5km restriction – but don’t limit people to just 1 hour of exercise.

    You never know – we might come out of the other side a lot fitter and healthier – and therefore much more likely as a society to beat the virus (who mainly kills old, fat, and diabetic people anyway).

    • JojoyubbyMEMBER

      no limit on how much exercise can be done INDOOR. Why exercise can only be done outside?
      I understand that if exercise is the only reason for leaving home, it is a very large incentive for lots of people to start exercising.

    • I’m finding motivation to be exceedingly scarce. I was doing 100 pushups a day, but haven’t for a few weeks now 🙁

      • Same here, but I think stress of lockdown, child on the way (I’m in Hospital now waiting) and no income at the moment is making me feel a bit off and not wanting to push my body. I am the type that goes full on in the gym/weight training department. I’m not good as doing half weights etc.. I am hoping my energy will return once child is born and I have another job.

        • I benched 140kg, squatted 220, and deadlifted 260 before this.

          I’d be lucky to do half that without a week of pain now :”(

          On the up side, I can jog 4k before the hate of jogging overcomes me.

          • I used to be similar to that with weight training. I also hate jogging. But my cardio fitness has improved since I moved to Warrandyte area and walk the dog through a lot of hills each day. Plus I’ve done manual labour in the garden but I’m bored with all that now and my pool is too cold to swim in.

        • bolstroodMEMBER

          Congratulations on your imminent arrival Gav
          Being at the birth of your children is right up there as one of lifes greatest experiences.
          You will litereally be walking on air.

          • Thanks he arrived midday. It’s a whirlwind alright. Still trying to catch my breath. Gives you a new perspective on life in general.

      • If you can, strongly encourage leaving Mel (if that’s where you are).

        20km/400m ascent in the NNSW hills this morning. 10km run Friday.

          • Well it seems you can get to NSW without quarantining.

            Is a permitted purpose “to buy a house”

            Don’t be grumpy with me, it’s not my fault


    • I can almost understand takeaway food staying open, but not really. I am horrified that Uber Eats et al are still allowed. If there was one group of individuals who would be likely to spread this thing as they go from restaurant to house to restaurant to house it’s be them. And as they work alone it’d be very hard to tell if they’re working while sick.

  3. But but but, elimination would rule out the end game the of budget restoring housing ponzi mass immigration model until the entire globe was vaccinated. That is why Morrison & Co went for “suppression” . NSW and Vic agreed as it would allow importation & control of the virus to acceptable levels (Berejiklian’s 250 cases per day).

    The other states, as lessor recipients of the Ponzi didn’t really care too much for such a strategy and concluded self interest was best served by re-election instead.

  4. Diogenes the CynicMEMBER

    It is hard to believe people are still arguing for groundhog misery of suppression when there are obvious examples of elimination both within Aust (WA, Tas etc) and NZ. Business in WA is massively in support of elimination so not sure who this chap is really pitching for.

  5. The core problem is that Elimination = the end of the immigration based Aussie economy those ruling VIC and NSW depend on.

  6. “…to model it or hazard a guess. ”

    Pretty much sums up epidemiolgy. All modelling really.

  7. Time to pay the price for the shoes that fit. Yabby Jeans best known half time speech. Elimination and strong borders.

  8. Please provide an example in the history of mankind where a respiratory disease that is well entrenched/endemic within a population is eliminated through non-medical human collective will alone.

    If you wish to propose such a radical strategy at astronomical cost to achieve this end goal then it is essential to show comparable precedent otherwise it is a massive risk at extreme odds.

    Keep in mind too we used to consider those that sacrificed themselves to harm and death in unavoidable circumstances (usually at war) in order for society to keep functioning were regarded as hero’s. Now that seems to be completely flipped on it’s head and every harm must be avoided at all costs. Sure we value life more, but that value cannot be infinite. Otherwise we need to close up shop at every risk of harm or death. This should not and cannot be normalised.

          • Precisely, due to an elimination strategy being successfully implemented and not the ‘let er rip’ strategy….

          • …and unfortunately Covid HAS ripped so it isn’t a comparable now is it. For the same reason NZ/WA/NT aren’t for Vic or globally.

          • Lockdown for long enough and enforce it strictly enough and you can.
            Bit pointless though if NSW doesn’t do it as well though….

          • Ronin8317MEMBER

            COVID-19 was eliminated from Wuhan after a month of lockdown. They had over 60k officially documented as infected, and probably 5 times more than that in reality. Like in Victoria, infected patients in Wuhan will not self isolate, so the Chinese government took the ‘hardline’ approach and weld people shut inside their own home. Not “woke” at all, but it worked.

            Anyone who try that ‘Sovereign Citizen’ crap in China will have their organ harvested (ok, according to the CCP it’s not happening anymore..). Spreading COVID-19 on purpose in China is an offense punishable by death.

          • Ok maybe not pointless but extremely inefficient if NSW doesn’t lock down now (for potentially a shorter period due to lower numbers/community spread) to eliminate the virus. Lot of trade between states that is not going to happen just because the response is disjointed, without a clear strategy for national elimination.

          • Yeah Robin Wuhan was basically the only one I could think of. Even then it had been around unchecked for ages so I wondered if it was herd immunity mixed with the bolted shut doors.

            But they’re only 6 months in so no mission accomplished yet when the rest of China has case (plus you need to trust the numbers of the ever so friendly CCP!).

    • Christmas Island… after we closed the international border, every traveller should have come back via Christmas Island. Only fly you out from there if you are negative.

    • Build a few international airports in the middle of the desert, tag all arrivals with gps trackers, hand them a compass, water supplies and a map….

      if they stop moving for more than 24hrs send in a burial squad. if they make it out give to civilisation they are all good.

      This way we improve tourism in the NT, can reopen the property ponzi and get back to pretending property is worth more than anyone can really rationally afford.

  9. Problem is adults have 3-5 times less T-cells than children, which makes fighting off a novel viral pathogen with multi organ specificity problematic. Ironically it’s actually less cytopathic than influenza, which is why novel influenza can have up to 60% mortality rate.

  10. migtronixMEMBER

    I honestly had no idea how many people aged in their 100s live in Victoria. Here’s to their 200th! At my expense…

  11. Approach to risk is always a value judgement, there is no absolute right or wrong.
    On the one hand you have freedom, on the other, protection of public (or at least individuals within the public’s) health.
    Here they are somewhat opposed to each other.

    Pretending therefore that there is only one valid approach to the issue: “severe lockdown” is wrong.
    It shows your values only (as does one opposing it). Saying that there is no valid counter-case (when there is) shows something else…

  12. But what about the landlords and bondholders? They need their tithes, a few 10k pleb deaths is not their problem.

  13. You can stage a false flag massacre and take my guns and bullet proof vest.
    You can detain me indefinitely with out a warrant.
    You can tax me into poverty and shower your mates in my money.
    You can have my meta data forever.
    You can invade my privacy without due cause.
    You can lock me up for 10 years for using encryption.
    You can rig elections so one party holds power for 80% of our federation.
    You can establish death camps on foreign lands in my name.
    You can let home affairs run roughshod over the constitution.
    You can even remove the opposition from office via the Governor General if things do go your way.

    But if I can’t go to the gym during a deadly pandemic, well, that is dictatorship.

  14. 1 dead in his 30s today. There’s a good chance it’s the emergency doctor in the Northern Hospital ICU or the GP in the Royal Melbourne ICU. I hope not.

    • Fabian AlderseyMEMBER

      Yeah but he probably only had a month to live anyway.
      /sarc – it’s completely tragic, and it’s horrible the way some forum commentators respond to people dying.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        But everyone needs to be locked away so doctors don’t see sick people? What’s the moral of the story here

  15. The smaller population of a city / country is, the easier it is to temporarily eliminate it.

    As soon as international travel resumes, it will be back – so it’s much better to build and trial effective suppression and tracing strategies.