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The Forum > Article Comments > Avoiding the trap of sacrificial math > Comments

Avoiding the trap of sacrificial math : Comments

By Robert Reed, published 9/4/2020

Must we pit the health of the economy against the lives of the many people projected to die if strong measures are not taken against the spread of the coronavirus?

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It's maths in Australia, not math.
Posted by ttbn, Thursday, 9 April 2020 10:02:05 AM
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While the lives lost to the virus are paramount, cognisance must be given to the economy. It is the past strength of the economy that even allows us to ponder the balancing act.

The health system depends utterly on the economy and eventually it will falter if the latter is allowed to hibernate for too long.

When the projections were for thousands of deaths here and many times more for the US, it was clear that taking measures to save as many of those lives as possible was required. Carnage at that level was in excess of normal deaths rates and would be unsustainable for a humane society. Additionally, in those early days it wasn't known that the carnage would be concentrated in the elderly.

So the economy was closed down.

Now much better information is available. It is now clear that the original dire warnings were overblown and that we won't get thousands of deaths here or 500000 in the US. Whatismore it is clear that the deaths are heavily restricted to the elderly - in the US the average age of Wuhan virus deaths is 80.

That is not to say that the elderly ought to be abandoned to their fate, but that there is no necessity to isolate the young. Sure some people under 60 have and will succumb but that is so for any disease or other risk.

Had we known that from the outset (and its no one's fault that we didn't) then our response may have been very different. Isolate the old, allow the working population continue to produce, throw all possible resources at protecting those most at risk and finding a way to inoculate the society from any infection.

There is no reason why we can't now adopted those policies except that some leaders may have to eat a little humble pie.

Its not an either/or problem. The victims rely on the health system and the health system relies on the economy. Both can be managed, especially if we are prepared to learn from what the data is now telling us.
Posted by mhaze, Thursday, 9 April 2020 2:20:17 PM
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Given how easy it is to make as much oxygen as we'd ever need! Can't see any logic other than a cold hard, cost-benefit analysis, for rationing this life and virus killing gas!?

The economy will get up off of the canvas and go on to win as a world champion, but only if the recovery paradigm is locked in to cooperative capitalism at every opportunity.

Those organisations that want to return to business, as usual, should have all support mandatorily withdrawn and asked to sink or swim on their own! Particularly those who've only survived on extremely generous taxpyer largess!

Take care and stay safe!
Alan B.
Posted by Alan B., Thursday, 9 April 2020 5:52:53 PM
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Normally this time of year, just about everyone in our region either has or had the Flu. It aways coincides with Public Servants returning from the South after the Xmas leave.
This year I haven't as yet had the normal severe symptoms nor do I know of others being "down with the Flu".
How about in other areas ? Is it only COVID-19 or have people come down with normal Flu also ?
Is the social distancing & closing of borders keeping the normal Flu at bay ? If so, let's do it every year from January till April !
Imagine what positives there could be from changing the staff returns to another time of the year ?
Posted by individual, Thursday, 9 April 2020 7:27:05 PM
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Dear mhaze,

Well mate you tell me what death rate you feel we should be comfortable with.

New Zealand has a 0.1 deaths per 100,000 infected.

Australia is at 0.8.

Should we follow the path of the US which is at 4.5?

What about those countries like the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden who decided to go for the type of herd immunity you are hinting at without saying it directly?

Sweden 8.1%

Netherlands 10.9%

U.K. - 11.5%

Your call.
Posted by SteeleRedux, Thursday, 9 April 2020 8:16:33 PM
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SR,

You wrote: "New Zealand has a 0.1 deaths per 100,000 infected.

Australia is at 0.8."

Since no one in any country knows how many people have been infected then your comparison is invalid. I suspect you mean cases found but that's an entirely different thing based on testing procedures, tests available and reporting protocols. I'd say there is universal agreement that we are finding only a fraction of the total number of infections. Since we don't know how many are infected in any one country, then we can't compare figures across countries or time. That's why the Diamond Princess was so important...see earlier thread.

You wrote: "Sweden 8.1%"

% of what?

"Well mate you tell me what death rate you feel we should be comfortable with."

Well there is no death rate that I'm comfortable with...see above where I wrote.."While the lives lost to the virus are paramount,.."

But in the grown-up world we recognise that people are going to die. The whole flatten the curve meme isn't about stopping deaths, just spreading them out so that the health system can cope without collapsing (see north Italy).

Earlier in the piece, we didn't know how many were at risk and we didn't know the risk factors. Now we know a lot more and the responses need to change to accommodate that new knowledge.

Again, in the grown-up world, we know that there are no perfect solutions, just bad and less bad.

Since the virus arrived here, more people have died in road accidents than have died from the virus itself. Have you called for the closure of all road transport? If not why not? What level of road deaths are you comfortable with? Your call.

As above, the health system we are trying to protect via curve flattening depends utterly on the economy. There will be a point where the closure of one will affect the ability of the other. And I'm not comfortable with that.
Posted by mhaze, Friday, 10 April 2020 9:29:53 AM
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