Hans Lovejoy, editor
While New Zealand declares itself COVID-19 free this week, Australia, particularly Victoria and now NSW residents, are bracing themselves for fresh cases of the virus. If there are to be local cluster outbreaks owing to asymptomatic or symptomatic visitors, it will presumably start to emerge shortly.
New Zealand’s strict eradication regime – which even included locking down the construction industry – appears at this stage a better outcome than Australia’s containment plan.
Yet eradication on a smaller island with fewer people was going to be more achievable.
The example no one wants to follow of course is the US, where states such as Arizona and Florida continue to buckle under sharp increases in the number of cases.
And Sweden’s experiment of allowing the virus to run its course ‘has become the world’s cautionary tale’, according to the New York Times.
Any pretence of this pandemic vanishing anytime soon quickly evaporates the more scientists understand about the virus.
Long term immunity after infection could be lost in months, a King’s College London study has recently suggested.
According to Australian government health, ‘COVID-19 is a new disease, so there is no existing immunity in our community’.
Yet infectious disease expert and Professor of Medicine at the University of Virginia, William Petri, wrote in academic website The Conversation that in a ‘tiny percentage of cases – maybe 1 in 100 – the immune system naturally eliminates SARS-CoV-2 from the body [SARS-CoV-2 is the virus; COVID-19 is the disease]. This is very encouraging for vaccine development’.
A vaccine of course, could be years away.
And because it’s all still unfolding, the accuracy of clinical study results may well change over time.
For example, there are early indications that blood types may have a role in the contagion. The risk for individuals for Type O blood appear to be significantly lower than other types, says Columbia University. It’s a similar outcome to a previous Chinese study.
Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark is the co-chair of the World Health Organisation’s Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. She told Dr Norman Swan on the ABC’s Health Report this week that another pandemic could be around the corner. Another coronavirus ‘may not be as far away as one would think’, she said.
So if you prefer science over punditry, you would be suspicious of Murdoch’s media mules, who campaign for complacency.
It’s worth asking whether Australia wants to be like America at this time? Murdoch’s media mules have much more influence in the US than they do here. Every bit of misinformation and seeding of doubt slows down the collective effort to get a handle on this one-in-a-100-year disease.
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