Sunday, November 15, 2020

Covid-19, lunch in Uralla and the Great Barrington Declaration

Lunch today at Uralla's Top Pub. It's a pretty pub. 

Sitting there on the shaded verandah watching the passing parade, I thought how lucky we were. Yes, the covid-19 distancing regulations are still in place, and indeed the pub has a very active covid safety plan, but it's close to normal life. 

On 24 October in Have we got the balance right between freedom and protecting the vulnerable?, Winton argues that restrictions have now gone too far.

"It seems to me that Australians should be giving serious consideration to the approach advocated in the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) of a group of infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists. The GBD advocates focused protection of those most vulnerable, whilst allowing the rest of the community to live their lives normally and to build up immunity through natural infection.

The GBD approach offers the best hope we have of life returning to normal in a reasonable time frame. If we do not get an effective vaccine or treatment, natural immunity offers the only hope that life can ever return to normal. If an effective vaccine or treatment becomes available over the next few months, that will remove most of the risks associated with the GBD approach. As I see it, there is no good reason why life in Australia should not return to normal very soon after vulnerable people have been offered the protection of a vaccine." 

The Declaration has come under attack. This piece in the Conversation, 5 failings of the Great Barrington Declaration’s dangerous plan for COVID-19 natural herd immunity, is an example. 

I have argued that that the restrictions in this country have lacked subtlety and nuance. However, it is hard to argue that they have been unsuccessful. They contrast with an explosion of cases in the UK, Europe and the US leading to the imposition of  renewed lock-downs.

I don't think that anyone believes that there will not be more covid cases in Australia. I also think that once international travel opens up as it must, the probability of new cases will increase. But what the restrictions have done is buy us time. 

I am not an epidemiological expert, but what does stand out to me are the variations in the pattern of both the pandemic and responses between jurisdictions and, possibly, ethnic groups. I'm not sure what I make of this. My feeling is that later analysis  of these variations will tell us much, including the extent to which herd immunity has worked and in what time horizon. 

Meantime, I'm just glad that we were able to have our lunch in Uralla!   

Postscript 18/11/20

The current covid outbreak in Adelaide and the subsequent imposition of a six day lockdown across South Australia shows just how quickly things can change. The outbreak seems to have begun in a "medi-hotel", the name used in SA for hotels providing quarantine facilities for returned travellers. 

This outbreak seems to have some new features. The SA Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier is reported as saying that the particular strain of the virus is breeding “very, very rapidly” with a short incubation period of about 24 hours, and with infected people showing only minimal symptoms. The last sounds good!  


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