What happened to following the COVID-19 science?

During his daily press conferences on Victoria’s COVID-19 infections, Premier Daniel Andrews regularly tells us that he is just “following the science” and the “super computer” with regards to the state’s draconian lockdowns.

This “science” saw blunt measures like nightly curfews, 5km travel limits, one hour exercise limits, playground bans, golf bans, and tennis bans come into effect. This “science” also continues to see illogical measures like gyms being shut in regional Victoria (despite almost zero cases), households prevented from being able to sit with friends in their front yard ($5,000 fine) despite being able to do so in a park, etc.

It turns out that “following the science” only applies when it suits the Victorian Government, as revealed by Wednesday’s Cox Plate fiasco:

Victorian health authorities declared it safe for hundreds to gather at an outdoor event, but the Andrews government has abandoned this advice in the face of a public backlash.

The decision to allow 500 people to attend Friday night and Saturday races this weekend had been approved by Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton’s team and the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as by Daniel Andrews’ crisis cabinet.

Despite this advice, and repeated claims that the state’s lockdown was guided by health recommendations, the Victorian Premier and Racing Minister Martin Pakula on Tuesday backtracked from allowing attendees at the Cox Plate this weekend…

 

So according to Jobs Minister Martin Pakula, the original decision to allow hundreds to gather at the Cox Plate on Saturday – the same day as Melburnians are banned from gathering to watch the AFL Grand Final – was not actually based on the “science”, but rather “motivated only by respect for the occasion & a desire to mark a small step on the path to reopening”.

Look, I have no issue with allowing people to attend the Cox Plate. What I do take issue with is the myriad of draconian rules still in place across Victorian, and the unscientific basis for these rules.

Why can’t I have fish & chips and beers with a friend in my empty front yard without risking a $5,000 fine, but can do so in a crowded park where the risk of virus transmission is far greater?

Why can’t my 10-year old daughter play with her neighbour in the yard when she is allowed to play with dozens of kids at school?

Why can’t regional Victorians go to the gym, given there are virtually zero infections (see below charts), but up to 40 people are permitted to gather inside a regional restaurant, pub or cafe?

Why can’t beauty salons open when hairdressers can?

Why are 10 people (plus staff) from separate households permitted to gather at a house auction, but a maximum of 10 people are only allowed to gather in a park if they are from two families?

Where’s the “science” backing these decisions?

The answer is obvious. There is no “science” backing many of the lockdown restrictions. They are a grab bag of inconsistent rules made by politicians, many of which favour some sections of the population over others.

It’s a shame the Andrews Government didn’t follow the advice of medical experts and “the science” when it devised its hotel quarantine program. If it had, it wouldn’t have handed responsibility for hotel quarantine to untrained private security, wouldn’t have imported the virus into the community, and wouldn’t have seeded the destructive second wave.

Unconventional Economist
Latest posts by Unconventional Economist (see all)

Comments

  1. Martin Pakula is corrupt and has appointed many mates to positions of power. He is part of a gang of ugly youths from Monash University – who realised that power is the only thing that could ever make them desirable.
    He thinks he is untouchable.

    • China PlateMEMBER

      no wait………..are you saying he has a head like a dropped pie on a cox plate. Well I’m not joining in with that

  2. For what its worth my recollection of some of the WA experience
    – Gyms and cinemas were some of the last retail to be allowed to open and even then limited to the number of people inside at any time. Im not sure if the customer limits still apply. I suspect they do. But the customer limits are still in force for the majority of retail outlets in shopping centers. I see spacing limit and signs in lots of large and small retails, even cafes are supposed to have limits to the 2m square rule.
    But ALL these limits in retail are being ignored. No one is social distancing, cafes are full, simply no one is do any social distancing at all. I dont even see people using sanitizer any more.
    If WA gets one instance of community transmission it will spread like wildfire.

    One other thing i recall is even when hairdressers and optometrists and dentists were allowed to open again a lot didn’t for weeks.
    And yeah hairdressers were allowed to open but beauty shops not. Hairdressers (the staff, not the owners) actually wanted to stay shut down longer. I can only assume hairdressers are essential compared to salons.

    I dont recall anything about not being allowed to sit or work in your own front yard. You could get takeaway within your areas but not sit and eat in the restaurants during the early periods.

    The racing event would not have been allowed here either, when WA was at the same stage as vic is now.

    I gotta say it wasn’t that hard to convince people in WA to isolate and deal with it.
    We didnt need/have a curfew. The public transport still ran, but patronage was so low that many services were cut simply because no one was using them.

    but of course we only had to do it once, and certainly not for the length of time that Victoria has had to endure.

    But again i put it out there the biggest problem Victoria has is the specific demographic of persons that are in the most willfully ignorant manner just not following the rules and ruining it for everyone else.

    • run to the hillsMEMBER

      Last paragraph sums it up perfectly AM, it’s the Somalis in Melbourne who are responsible for the latest outbreak and who will probably ruin Christmas for everyone.

      • You need to supply evidence for a comment like that, which is otherwise pretty easy to dismiss as the kind of comment that has led to pogroms on countless occasions of national crisis globally.

        • Agree.

          Let’s not forget the entitled set running around rosebud post aspen.

          It’s a people problem in the main but there may be cultural aspects at play

        • run to the hillsMEMBER

          Heard it from a well placed source in Melbourne and anyone who knows much about the ethnic makeup of the old Olympic village in West Heidelberg will know what I’m talking about.

      • reusachtigeMEMBER

        Look I’m all for being a racist prick when it’s justified so if you can’t provide evidence for this you’re just a scumbag. Cheers!

    • Well put. Your comment >but of course we only had to do it once, and certainly not for the length of time that Victoria has had to endure> .while it acknowledges how difficult it has been for Melbournians, in no way change the fact that these measures work.

      After all the emotional and economic pain Melbournians have gone through, the Andrews measures are rightfully cautious, sensible, backed by science and supported by the community. Moreover, if Melbourne opens too soon, it will be the working class service industry workers and their families who are exposed, just as it has been all over the world – precisely the people who are most likely to be living closely confined and in a position to spread the virus, whereas those who can work from home are protected.

      The pressure the right are putting on Victoria is despicable. They of course know how hollowed out and fragile its economy is, and as soon as the virus gets out again, will blame it on Victorian incompetence – not their own pressure combined with Melbourne’s unwieldy, non-cohesive community, or will point the finger at Vic’s lockdowns – either way a win-win for the neolibs. Despicable.

    • Case in point is my own town Little River
      https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/a-town-reunited-little-river-reclassified-as-regional-victoria-20201022-p567s6.html

      The virus knows the difference between the LGA boundaries and it can’t swim. Meanwhile it gets waved through at the covid proof fence if it’s riding with truckies or in a tradies ute, or if it’s a VicPol meal break or the weather is inclement and there’s no one to scan number plates to dish out fines for unregistered cars.

      The restrictions on travel never made sense precisely because of examples like Little River. It’s about 15km to go to Lara for Doctors, Pharmacy, groceries, post office, high school etc.

      The only benefit of the rona proof fence is the overtime the coppers would be raking in. Time to pack it up.

    • I think if the peoples who got fined these large amounts banded together and went to court as a collective they could either get them reduced or eliminated. In WA we jailed a lady for 6 months just for crossing the border without permision. She was released on appeal and fined.

  3. Arthur Schopenhauer

    Leith, there is no requirement to wear a mask while on your own property.

    https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/face-masks-vic-covid-19#i-work-from-home–does-this-mean-it-is-my-workplace-and-i-have-to-wear-a-face-mask

    You can’t meet a mate for fish and chips in your front yard, but you can in any park within a 25km radius.

    Kids from 2 households can meet in a park, and it’s happening around us every day.

    The science says, the most common form of transmission in Melbourne is in family groups within homes. The rules try to minimize that risk by placing social interaction away from indoor space.

    From the experience in Preston, and the lack of compliance more generally in Hume, these rules are corse, because they have to work to the lowest common denominator. Victoria does not have an all pervasive digital surveillance system, like a northern neighbor, to enforce and administer the restrictions. (As much as many MB readers would like to think it! 😀)

    Before you rail against me, I acknowledge that these points are “It’s OK for Arthur” points, because there are plenty of parks in my neighborhood all within a walkable distance. By contrast, most of Melbourne has very few parks within walking distance from home, and fewer that are nice places to be.

    Again, the virus has exposed a structural weakness in our living arrangements and economy more generally. There have been progressively fewer parks and green spaces built in residential developments since the 1960s. Those that are beyond the middle suburbs are not maintained except for a monthly mow. They are places nobody cared about.

    The anger in your writing is evident. You guys have built a well earned media platform and your arguments would be strengthened if you addressed some of the structural shortcomings that direct the VPS strategy. Focusing on the individuals rather than the underlying structural problems is missing the forest for the trees.(IMHO)

    [Edit: The Racing Minister a tone deaf d!ck. No doubt about it. And judging by his actions, likely on the take in some way.]

    [Edit 2:
    https://newseu.cgtn.com/news/2020-07-08/COVID-19-and-the-city-How-past-pandemics-have-shaped-urban-landscapes-QCFjZLBIxG/index.html
    ]

    • migtronixMEMBER

      That’s idiotic. 5 million people have to be at mercy of a few thousand because “we don’t have an all pervasive surveillance” that we in fact do have!!

      So tired of you shills…

      How about close the Islamic schools? How about permanently if they can’t do simple hygiene education???

      • Arthur Schopenhauer

        I’m not shilling, I’m highlighting that the responses are driven by the capacity of the public service, the spatial arrangements of Melbourne and our cultural make up.

        It’s like the Royal Comission into Banking, a few CEOs stood down, but none of the underlying structural problems were addressed. As a consequence, the same issues are repeating themselves in a tragically short space of time.

        You know as well as I do that the ‘Authoritarianism As A Digital Service” of our northern neighbor far exceeds anything any Australian Government is capable of.

        We can cry in frustration at the injustice of the VPS response, but unless the underlying causes are addressed, the clumsy policies and poor implementation are not going to change.

        To put it another way, serious bugs in the OS are going make any Apps that uses it difficult to write and ultimately unreliable or even unrealizable. That’s where we are with governance in Oz.

        • migtronixMEMBER

          That’s all shilling because you didn’t address the simple and obvious problem Islamic schools clearly don’t do hygiene education….

          • Arthur Schopenhauer

            A family knowingly visited their Covid positive uncle and then sent their 3 kids to school the next day. That’s what actually happened.

            Make off it what you will.

          • migtronixMEMBER

            What else would you make of it? Do you really think they weren’t kissing the uncle like 50x on the way in and out?!?

          • migtronixMEMBER

            I’m not actually suggesting Islam has anything to do with it because those countries are if anything largely better off. I’m suggesting we’re not really being scientific or surgical with the data, we’d rather be blunt and miedeival because of “optics”.

          • Arthur Schopenhauer

            I hear you Mig. I’m arguing a similar thing from the other direction: the VPS has been focused on optics for 20 years, and now finds it only has a broadcast camera when it needs a scalpel. Their toolbox is pretty spartan, and there is nobody there to fill it.

      • And what do these countries have in common? Cohesive, well integrated communities – complete opposite of Melbourne’s mess of mass immigration-bloated disparity and disadvantage.

          • Sweden’s population at the end of WW2 was 8 million. It’s just over 10 million today.

            Straya’s pop at the end of WW2 was the same as Swedens – 8 million. Today 25 million.

            Triple! Says it all really eh?

          • So what? They’re actually very diverse now. They have higher immigration than we do per capita. In 2010, so ages ago and with lower immigration “As of 2010, 1.33 million people or 14.3% of the inhabitants of Sweden were foreign-born. Of these individuals, 859,000 (64.6%) were born outside the European Union”.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_Sweden

            I’m sorry my family disrupted the homogeneity of pre-WW2 Australia btw… :/

        • You are a loon and should be ignored. I have lived in Stockholm. Cohesive and integrated? Far from it. Don’t even get me started on Malmo. There are standing orders to Emergency Services regarding “No Go Zones”.

  4. The science stopped in Wuhan in January 2020 when the pandemic playbook was thrown out the window for a CCP inspired one and the whole World (barring a few exceptions that now are doing ok) followed suit.

  5. reusachtigeMEMBER

    Blame the chicken sh1ts of society! I hate those people. We have some on here. Imposing their extreme fear and anxiety on others because they “watch the news”. Cunce!

  6. I think you’re over-simplifying a bit here. There is science, yes, but there is also psychology at work here. Let’s assume that beauty salons are not more risky disease vectors than hairdressers (could be true), but both are a risk. Opening both is more risky than opening one. But what does the general public care more about? People care a LOT more about their hair colour and cut than their bikini line or mani/pedi. (I say this as a middle aged bald guy who shaves his own head, so it’s just my observation and opinion which I can’t prove or back up with personal experience.) So the social/psychological benefit of opening hairdressers FAR outweighs opening beauty salons. In that context (as an example) a seemingly inconsistent decision like this (on scientific grounds alone) makes sense.

        • 😂👀🦀

          On zwift, I get the appeal – I tried it , sufferfest, Rouvy (which I liked most), but sold my Kickr Snap because I found it as boring as batsh5t- how do you find it?

          Cynically – it’s another market for the industry – mats screens ancillaries etc etc

          Of course I’m not in Melbourne so have been up and around the hills non stop. There is a beauty in the simplicity (of course I am still on rim brakes and mechanical Red)

          If it’s raining there’s always kettlebells and HIRT

          • Arthur Schopenhauer

            It boring, and I prefer Rouvy. Like alll things in Melbourne ATM it’s the lesser of two evils. There are only so many safe routes in a 5km radius.

          • Arthur Schopenhauer

            PS I’m looking forward to doing a long couple of ride days across the Vic Alps, Fyxo style.

    • migtronixMEMBER

      What are you talking about? Both of these are activities you’d engage in at what cadence? Once a month? Also pretty sure you can clean between patrons, really would have thought they already plus UV light is a thing they use.

      Lots and lots of this is just finger in the air bs like you just displayed…

        • They’re not gyms. The distinction is almost arbitrary, both involve body care. What difference does it make if you go in for one or the other?

          • Every shop you open incrementally increases the risk of a new outbreak by some amount. Let’s assume that all shops pose an equal risk, for the sake of argument, say, x%. That doesn’t mean that they should all be treated equally. The x% incremental risk is the cost, which we’ve assumed is equal for every shop. But the benefit to the population at large is not equal for every type of shop. So what a risk manager (ie. the government) should do here is seek to obtain the highest possible benefit relative to the risk accepted. In my view that’s probably why hairdressers get the nod over beauty salons. The number of people (even if you normalise for the numbers of people who use them, probably more for hairdressers than beauty salons) who feel that access to a hairdresser is “essential” to their general wellbeing would be greater than the equivalent for beauty salons. (I accept this is just my conjecture – I have no evidence of this.) Hence, opening a hairdresser delivers a greater benefit per unit of risk accepted, when compared to a beauty salon.

    • The bulk of the world’s response has been fear driven – a dumb majority of the public fearing they would die despite the facts saying otherwise, governments in fear if they didn’t comply with their fearful public, mainstream media fearful of losing viewers if they didn’t go with sexy fearmongering.

      • +1 But now watch them turn to complete denial when forced to acknowledge any of the real and psychological damage done to a greater many people than those that got covid.

    • Agree, but the issue here is that the government cannot really go into all the details of why it is making decisions x and y. If they do they will have a John Hewson “birthday cake moment”. Ultimately there will be matters of opinion, conjecture (informed and less so) that go into these decisions. There are also predictions of herd behaviour that are very difficult to substantiate until they eventuate, but are really quite critical to any such decision. I’m glad we live in a land where the govt is subject to the interrogation and submits itself to it, other than Scummo, who is quite the artful dodger.

  7. Covid19 public policies and science got divorced on 5th of March.
    Everything that happened since is pure ideology … there was more “science” behind gulags and camps than lockdowns

    • Sounds like both sides of politics really

      Are we a unconstrained capitalism / corporatacracy / game of mates or socialist set of states?

      • There are no two sides of politics
        Just two naratives that follow the same unconstrained capitalism / corporatacracy / game of mates ideology

  8. “Follow the Science” went the same way as “Flattening the Curve”. What Politicians are now following is a clear path to a major election victory a la Jacinda Ardern. The more draconian the measures, the more “lives we saved” and the more likely you are to become the next “Leader for Life”.

      • QLD will need a new outbreak to lock every one down, so the Premier can go on TV every single day and instill fear and panic into the population, while promising that they are the only ones who can save everyone. Release the lockdown a few weeks before the election, so that everyone can feel suitably grateful and proud of how well their Leader did. Then half the country becomes a cult.

        • Arthur Schopenhauer

          Nah, the Premier just has to point to Melbourne. Queenslanders don’t need much of a reason to “shut the gate!”. 🙂

    • Dont mean to be cynical kiwikaryn, but lots of covid turning up in NZ now – the week after the election. With testing running at only 5000/day little wonder not many cases are found. NSW still north of 20,000 per day with only marginally larger population and NSW govt urging more testing. Of course in NZ why would you be tested if the govt drags you out of your own home to a dirty quarantine facility previously used by god knows who from god knows where?

  9. Just flew into South Korea on Tuesday, my first overseas trip since April. The airport was absolute chaos as hundreds of passengers were crammed together waiting to get an app installed on their phone and to check other documents.

    I had applied for quarantine exemption prior to flying, so after the airport I had one night in quarantine waiting for test results (test was mandatory), and was free to go after it came back negative. I have to submit a condition report on the app twice a day, and they call every couple of days. I’m fairly sure it monitors your location also but that part was In Korean so cant say for certain.

    Absolutely everybody is wearing masks, but other than that life seems pretty normal here.

    • You are most likely to pick it up at the airport or on the plane with other travellers (unless it was a direct flight from Australia to SK). The Russian sailors in NZ all isolated for 14 days prior to catching their flight, and all tested negative on the pre-departure testing. And still, 18 of them have tested positive on arrival.