Australia has decided to ‘let Covid rip.’ Is that a good idea?

Australia has decided to ‘let Covid rip.’ Is that a good idea? By Nick Baker.

As 2021 drew to a close, many Australians were cautiously optimistic that the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic was behind them.

The country had surpassed ambitious vaccine targets, meaning its rolling lockdowns could cease, both internal and international borders would reopen, and as Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared, it was now possible to “live with this virus.” …

Alexandra Martiniuk, a professor and epidemiologist at the University of Sydney, said the timing of Australia’s U-turn was not ideal.

“[Some states and territories] really got down to very few restrictions, just as there was the emergence of omicron. … Scientists, other experts and also some in the public were asking, ‘Hey, is this smart? We actually don’t know omicron well enough. Should we be doing this?’” she said.

“We should have changed our plan when we saw omicron arrive. … We barged straight into a dark room without knowing what was in there.”

Like many countries around the world, omicron has hit Australia hard. Some states and territories that once went weeks without a case now have thousands or tens of thousands of cases each day. The number of daily deaths has jumped from around 10 in December to more than 50.

And the strain has been felt across the country.

First, testing systems quickly became overwhelmed. People waited for hours at PCR testing facilities, with results delayed for days. Many pharmacies and shops have ran out of rapid tests and those that still have some face accusations of price gouging. …

With cases spiking so quickly, workers of all stripes have needed to take time off because of sickness or to meet isolation requirements, affecting many industries and supply chains.

Supermarkets are short of certain products. Trains in Australia’s biggest city, Sydney, are running on a reduced timetable due to a lack of staff. And KFC restaurant outlets are facing a chicken shortage. …

The one state to have dodged the omicron surge is Western Australia, which has maintained a hard border with other states and territories. It remains almost free of Covid, but has faced criticism for not allowing fellow Australians to enter, even for compassionate reasons. …

All-in on vaccines:

The prime minister and other state and territory leaders point to Australia’s vaccination rate as a key reason why the country will weather the omicron storm.

Around 77 percent of the overall population has received two doses of the vaccine, compared with around 62 percent in the United States.

And the Australian government often trumpets another number — around 92 percent of the over-16 population has received two vaccine doses. …

Australia’s initial tough approach toward Covid, followed by its slow but successful vaccine rollout, have meant the number of deaths attributed to the virus has been around 2,500, compared with around 846,000 in the U.S.

Australia has created a perfect storm for itself.

Having held covid at bay for two years at little cost (except for the bungled Melbourne lockdowns) simply by closing the borders, Australia has been badly sucked in by the vaccine manufacturers et al. Australia is relying entirely on vaccines, even banning ivermectin. Australian authorities original thought vaccines would so reduce transmission that we could achieve herd immunity. That has so obviously not happened, so it’s been memory holed.

Australia has almost no natural immunity, because there has been no covid here. Now we are opening up, with only faulty vaccines to protect us (officially). No lockdowns, which in any case can’t get us back to zero covid against omicron.

The result? Australia has achieved a world record: the fastest per-capita spread of covid. Just as well it’s summer and only omicron.

Closing borders and locking down enough to zero-covid worked well, but going all in on vaccines is increasingly looking like a big error.

hat-tip Scott of the Pacific