AIHS Repeating the ‘Race to 80’ and ‘Live With COVID’ Rhetoric
Interesting to see the AIHS buying the cool-aid of the ‘Race to 80’ and ‘live with COVID’ rhetoric. This is NOT the discourse of the Doherty Report . At best, this idea of ‘race to 80’, language of ‘freedom’ and ‘living with COVID’ are more propaganda than is contained in the Doherty Report.
First of all, the Doherty Report is not an economic model, neither does it set targets in the way that are recited by politicians. The Doherty Report has a quite narrow scope and does NOT consider a broad range of issues regarding projections about stages of tackling COVID. The scope of the Doherty report only considers ‘Models of COVID-19 infection and vaccination were used to define a target level of vaccine coverage for transition to Phase B of the National Plan’.
Based on a limited set of assumptions the Doherty Report only models daily infections, workplace absenteeism, occupied ward beds, ICU beds and daily deaths under scenarios of 50%, 60%, 70% and 80% vaccination rates for those ages 16 and above. So for the total population these numbers are really 40%, 48%, 56% and 64%. Also, the simulation for the Report only considers a 180 day time period which limits projected modelling. The total number of teenagers was not considered in the scope of the Doherty modelling.
Of course, the modelling of the Doherty Report is already dated given all the changes in NSW and even the Director of the Doherty Institute Professor Sharon Lewin (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRGPz6DDaq8) states clearly the limits of the Report and the fact that there is NO notion of a ‘freedom day’ as part of any of its projections. Professor Lewin also makes it very clear that the Report needs constant updating and that language associated with ‘live with COVID’ and ‘race to 80’ are simply not helpful nor reflect the nature of the report.
For a good critique of the current propaganda associated with ‘race to 80’ and ‘living with COVID’ one should read an excellent article by Matt Barrie (https://medium.com/@matt_11659/australian-public-fed-nonsense-as-country-heads-to-irreversible-decision-99350b80125c ). Similarly, jumping on the bandwagon of the Grattan Institute’s language of ‘race to 80’ and ‘living with COVID’ is neither wise nor professional in the face of the limits of the Doherty Report. It is important to remember that the Grattan Institute is a Public Policy think tank, not a group of researchers in Epidemiology or Virology.
What is important here is to remember the symbolic power of language and what is created by the discourse hidden in language of ‘race to 80’ and ‘live with COVID’. Such language is NOT politically or socially neutral but conjures up ideas about moving beyond the pandemic that are simply not supported by evidence. There is an ethic hidden in all language and professionals should consider critically what this kind of language conjures up in the minds of people.
Any sense of ‘opening up’ language is also fraught with danger. Even Duckett from the Grattan Institute acknowledges when Australia hits 12,000 cases a day that the Hospital System would collapse. Already 20% of COVID deaths have occurred in hospitals and thousands of nurses and health workers cannot work because they are in isolation.
The key in talking about risk is not spruiking overconfidence or hubris about what one think one knows. Indeed, the precautionary principle that guides all thinking in risk and safety should be adopted.
A little dose of Sunstein Beyond the Precautionary Principle or Kay and King Radical Uncertainty, Decision Making for an Unknowable Future is worth reading. Jumping on the populist language of Race to 80’ or ‘Living with COVID’ is neither wise, mature or professional.