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How Not to Engage in Public Debate

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 am, April 15th, 2020 - 95 comments
Categories: accountability, covid-19, Ethics, health, science, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: , , , ,

Scholarly Debate

A couple of weeks ago, an Auckland epidemiologist wrote an opinion piece in which he argued that our lockdown measures were overkill [pardon the pun]. He finished his piece with these memorable words:

We don’t want to squash a flea with a sledgehammer and bring the house down. I believe that other countries, such as Sweden, are steering a more sensible course through this turbulent time.

At the time, I thought it was a controversial opinion but one reasonable well made, with some interesting metaphors, and it would stimulate public debate.

You would expect that with all the new data and information that have become available since a good scientist would incorporate this and sharpen his arguments. It appears he had not and doubled down on his arguments despite the fact that Sweden’s situation has taken a turn for the worse with marked increases in the numbers of both COVID-19 cases and deaths. An earlier version of the second article contained this telling part, which has since been deleted it seems:

If you catch Covid-19 your likelihood of dying is the same as your average likelihood of dying that year anyway. It has been described as squeezing your years [sic] mortality risk into two weeks.

Luckily, I could find it on Scoop 😉

Patients with (late stage advanced) cancer, for example, spend literally fortunes on drugs that could prolong their lives by a few months and potentially even cure them – some of those horrendously expensive treatments are subsidised by the Taxpayer (PHARMAC). Not many people would choose to squeeze their life, not matter how short it might be, into two weeks and speed up the inevitable. It sounds like a misguided argument in favour of one the referendums (referenda) scheduled for 19 September.

The epidemiologist has been joined by a few fellow academics. Academics should not shy away from academic debate. They also have a duty to engage in public debate. In both cases, however, they should not just wave their arms around but they should present the data, their modelling, their interpretations for scrutiny by their academic colleagues and the public. As far as I can tell, they have failed to meet this critical requirement. Which means their opinion is no better or worse than the average pundit’s is.

Thornley said the evidence thus far showed eradication of the virus in New Zealand, the Government’s stated aim, was not necessary.

What evidence? Where is it? Show us!

An even more damning verdict of these academics is their timing of their piss-poor messaging. While the Government and most of the NZ population are doing their best to eliminate the virus, a small and apparently growing minority is breaking the rules and potentially jeopardising the goal of this lockdown. As the lockdown goes on, it will be increasingly harder to avoid and resist complacency. In my view, the poor handling of the counter-opinion of these academics makes it more difficult to stay in lockdown and transition in a well-controlled manner into Alert Level 3 or 2 even. In other words, their spray & walkaway approach that runs counter to all Government messaging, which is informed by scientific evidence and data sharing with input from a range of experts such as the Technical Advisory Group, is bordering on being irresponsible. This is not a good way to engage in public debate on a matter of life and death.

In the interest of the public health of all New Zealanders, these academics must present their data and modelling and they must better control their messaging and consider the potential consequences and impact of their seemingly naive press release. If they have a case to be made, perhaps they should front at the Epidemic Response Committee. If they truly believe they have a genuine point then put up or shut up.

Addendum: Thanks to a blog that showed up later in this site’s Feeds section, it appears the academics mentioned in this Post have set up a dedicated website: http://www.covidplanb.co.nz/

There’s an awful lot of stuff on their website including the media release that triggered this Post. It is a pity that none of the MSM sources that I could find had bothered to link to the academics’ website.

Given that other scientists also challenged the academics to show their data and modelling, it is fair to assume that they also were not aware of the existence of that website or could not find what they asked for and/or remained unconvinced of the academics’ arguments. In any case, the fact remains that this is a poorly handled PR exercise and for this reason, I’ve decided to put up this Post regardless, as it might stimulate further constructive discussion.

95 comments on “How Not to Engage in Public Debate ”

  1. While the Government and most of the NZ population are doing their best to eliminate the virus, a small and apparently growing minority is breaking the rules and potentially jeopardising the goal of this lockdown. As the lockdown goes on, it will be increasingly harder to avoid and resist complacency.

    This is the worst part, I think. Their calls for the government to take the Swedish approach (since changed to the Australian approach now that Sweden's in the shit) is basically a call for all the (relatively) young and able-bodied to reject having their style cramped by concerns for the elderly, disabled or immuno-compromised. It's a call that will appeal to and encourage all the empathy-challenged types itching to join the minority who are breaching the lock-down rules. "Irresponsible" is almost an overly-generous word for it.

    • Ross 1.1

      A somewhat nuanced analysis of coronavirus in Sweden is enlightening.

      All of the countries listed below, except Sweden, have full national lockdowns. And yet Sweden is roughly in the middle of the pack. This is quite remarkable in itself, when set against the dominant narrative that lockdowns are the only thing capable of ‘flattening’ these curves and preventing tragedies that are many times worse.

      The comparison of Sweden with other European countries also suggests that in those places where the virus was already widespread, such as the UK, the severity of the lockdown doesn’t necessarily correlate with a flatter curve. Belgium, which is fully locked down, has a much more worrying trajectory than Sweden, with no lockdown. The severest and most disastrous epidemics so far have been in Italy and Spain, the countries with the strictest legal lockdowns.

      …The worst epidemics have been seen in global hubs such as London and New York — another reason why it is a fallacy to say that the size and extent of different national epidemics is simply the effect of differing government policies.

      https://unherd.com/2020/04/jury-still-out-on-swedish-coronavirus-strategy/

      • lprent 1.1.1

        I’d agree with everything and the article said you said, except that Sweden isn’t out of the woods yet, and curiously enough the author missed looking at the societies that are both in advance of Sweden in the infection cycle and have used similar policies. Curious when they started by (rightly) criticising other peoples selections of comparison curves.

        They (and indeed many of the European countries) haven’t really got the second wave from straight community spread and the clusters of infected. That should be due reasonably shortly.

        Currently they are graphing like Singapore at the end of last month ~2020-03-30. Singapore had remarkably similar policies to Sweden. However there was a far larger swell of community spread that started to express weeks after the incoming traveller wave was suppressed.

        Basically the article you’re reading appears to be as flawed as the articles it is criticising.

      • Tabletennis 1.1.2

        Thank you Ross for that link, also from the same article:

        "A better definition of success would surely be: which governments are getting the balance right between protecting their people as reasonably as possible against this new threat while not destroying too much of their country in the process? Death rates per million is not the only datapoint in this difficult equation; and right now, it is far too early to judge how successful Sweden, or the UK, will be. "

  2. Wayne 2

    PM

    The Austrian approach seems to have resulted in about the same degree of transmission as NZ. So hardly “irresponsible”.

    However, the Australian approach (at least in NSW, Vic and Queensland) is not actually that much different to NZ. Probably about the Level 4 minus, or Level 3 plus.

    I assume the govt is looking closely at what Australia is doing. If there can be somewhat fewer restrictions but no worse transmission then it would be logical to shift to the Australian level of restriction.

    • KJT 2.1

      I think people forget that Australia, unlike New Zealand, is a Federation.

      Agree. They are not, as a whole, doing things much differently, from us.

      Some things seem truly stupid though. Like hairdressers remaining open.

      Our Government has been looking every day, at what level and numbers of businesses, that can safely operate. The amount of trade that can go online has been reviewed and increased over the last two weeks, for example.

      Bridges as usual is pretending it was the result of pressure from National, electioneering, rather than something they logically intended all along.

      • I Feel Love 2.1.1

        And yes Wayne, we will be going down a level or 2, in a couple weeks time.

      • Carolyn_Nth 2.1.2

        As I recall, Turnbull was reluctant to put any lockdown in place. States like Victoria then kind of decided for him by announcing their forms of restrictions.

        The Aussie guy at yesterday's epidemic committee said that initially Turnbull wanted to keep schools open, but gave in to pressure from parents and schools – a lot of parents just stopped sending their children to school.

        • Enough is Enough 2.1.2.1

          Turnbull?

          George Gregan has as much authority to put someone into lockdown as Turnbull does. He hasn't been the Prime Minister since August 2018.

    • Hi Wayne, what bothers me is that they've switched to focusing on Australia (which, as you say, overall isn't that much less locked down than we are) only now that their earlier focus on the Swedish approach is looking embarrassing. That's one of the things I consider worse than irresponsible.

      Edit: also, it bothers me that they’re asking for us to be a lot less locked down than Australia, when Australia has a much higher hospitalisation rate and much higher number of deaths per capita than us. Again, worse than irresponsible.

      • Pete George 2.2.1

        Actually after the 4 death increase here yesterday the New Zealand and Australian death rates are quite similar at 2 per million population. Because of our small population and low death rate nearly doubling the number of deaths in one day yesterday has bumped us up.

        • Muttonbird 2.2.1.1

          No Pete. Yesterday NZ was at 1.88/million and Australia 2.44/million.

          Rounding them both to two (as on the Worldometers Covid-19 stats page) produces the effect of undervaluing NZ's performance.

          This of course is what government opponents wish to do.

          • Pete George 2.2.1.1.1

            I said quite similar, which they are. Our death total has jumped largely due to one rest home with high risk patients getting infected. It could easily jump again today.

            Because of our small numbers another death or three can make quite a difference compared to Australia, especially when increases are announced at different times.

            I think it’s too soon to congratulate ourselves too much.

            • Muttonbird 2.2.1.1.1.1

              You seem desperate for us to not be able to congratulate ourselves. I wonder why.

              • I'm not desperate. How New Zealand has dealt with Covid looks very promising for now, and I'd rather be here than anywhere else, but it's far too soon to know what the cost in lives health and to the economy will be.

                What we do soon will be as important as what we have already done.

                And then it will take months at least to see how well we've done.

        • Psycho Milt 2.2.1.2

          That's some heroic rounding you're doing there, Pete. But yeah, the failure to keep CV-19 out of aged care facilities is going to bite us.

        • aj 2.2.1.3

          Serious/critical condition in Australia: 80. New Zealand: 4

          On a population basis Aussie should only have 20 (or us have 16)

          *snap – DV below

      • Muttonbird 2.2.2

        And a better climate, and better housing.

    • peterh 2.3

      Aust near 400 in hospital, NZ 15

    • Forget now 2.4

      You do mean "Australian" not "Austrian" in that first sentence don't you Wayne?

      But you can't claim that the evidence says that there is the same level of SARS-COV-2 transmission, in NZ &OZ. Just a comparable level of detected transmission.

      If half of one group of people wears headcoverings, compared to ninety percent of another, and; you see that 5 out of a hundred of each group has red hair, would you assume that each group has the same number of redheads?

    • mauī 2.5

      Australia could have had an unmitigated disaster on their hands with most shops and schools remaining open throughout, and mixed messages coming from State and Federal Government.

      Seems more a case of blind luck than good management.

      • I Feel Love 2.5.1

        Some of those businesses like hairdressers are petitioning the Govt to close, they don't want to be guinea pigs or the canaries in the mine. There's also stories of people not even going to hairdressers because they fear infection.

    • Carolyn_Nth 2.6

      There was discussion of the similarities and differences between Aussie and NZ on the epidemic committee yesterday, and on Checkpoint last night.

      There was discussion of the different pattern of transmission/cases in the 2 countries, with more cases spread around NZ than in Aussie.

      The standout difference is that Aussie was much faster in getting testing and track and trace systems implemented. Don't know why that was. But Aussie still seems faster in their track and tracing. And fast track and tracing was stated (by Skegg?) as being as good as having a vaccine.

      NZ started off, before lock down, sending swabs to Aussie for testing.

      Lock down, gave NZ time to improve amount of testing, and their track and trace systems.

      Aussie's system was described as equivalent to our Alert level 3.5.

      More businesses continued operating in Aussie, but most have seen a big drop off in business because people are not visiting them.

      Stores in Aussie have developed systems for physical distancing – floor squares 2 meters apart to show customers where to stand; limited numbers of customers allowed in stores at any one time.

      The Aussie system was put in place for 6 months. NZ went to level 4 initially for a month. This gave the NZ government time to assess, which businesses should operate and how. The government is preparing businesses and schools to drop to level 3 – telling businesses to work out physical distancing protocols, etc.

  3. BArely Here, or There 3

    "Which means their opinion is no better or worse than the average pundit’s is."

    That is true for everyone discussing covid, because little useful data exists because it is necessarily out of context and truncated, and interpretation quickly dissolves into heresay and projections from whoever is speaking. No one can be 100% scientific about it. The models are adjusted as time goes by, meaning that anything stated as true a week ago isn't true now, and anything stated as true today may not be true next week. That will be the case until the situation has a conclusive end and can be viewed to hindsight, and even then the statements will gravitate toward heroics or blame. What you have here is a human psychology/philosophical problem.

    You say Sweden in now a bad example, but have they reached a peak? Yes no maybe?

    Have we reached a peak, having been assured by an authoritative figure we have, but also knowing that not everyone is being tested? yes no maybe?

    Will any lifting of lockdown result in a renewal of cases? Didn't Jacinda just say it only takes one person in a group to reignite the virus? Meanwhile, Simon Bridges and Hone Harawira flaunt the rules. They must not be human, or part of any group, because they are incapable of being vulnerable to the virus. So does that mean, scientifically, that the lockdown is a flawed concept? yes no maybe?

    Are the lives of nine elderly patients worth completely wiping an entire country's existing economic future? yes no maybe? What's the going rate for young vs. old? Two young to one old? Two million young to one old? Is that even a concern? Do you know? yes no maybe?

    Should obvious and well known logical fallacies be suspended during a time they are most necessary? yes no maybe?

    I guess we'll see in real time. In the meantime, we'll tear strips off each other arguing unscientifically.

    • I Feel Love 3.1

      Every day the UK & New York say "we've reached the peak", even though our numbers are falling, I'm so glad we don't have a leader bragging about it.

    • KJT 3.2

      The effects of taking a different approach.
      And. Their economy is still fucked.

      Note; it is a logarithmic scale. It was changed from the original on the site because the upward curve, on a non logarithmic scale, was off the page.

      Connecticut with 3.6 million people.

      See the source image

    • Are the lives of nine elderly patients worth completely wiping an entire country's existing economic future?

      It's funny how many people seem unable to spot just how irrational that question is. The unreason involved is the same as Gareth Morgan's argument that the damage to the economy won't be justified unless lots of people die.

      • arkie 3.3.1

        Moloch demands sacrifice.

        Or is it Mammon?

      • Pete George 3.3.2

        The question shouldn't be based on 9 deaths. If we had given a priority to the economy over health then the number of deaths would likely have been quite a few more. All it would have taken is a few more rest homes to get Covid-19 to have made a big difference to our death rate.

        If you want to compare to Sweden (currently 1.033 deaths):

        But Sweden has highlighted the spread of the coronavirus in elderly care homes in Stockholm as a failure, which is believed to have contributed to the Swedish capital's high death toll compared to the rest of the country.

        https://www.thelocal.se/20200414/swedens-coronavirus-strategy-sparks-fierce-debate-as-deaths-pass-1000

        While some seem to think a few oldies are expendable so we can get back to fast food and fast living, others not so much.

        • pat 3.3.2.1

          And how pray tell do you propose prioritising the economy over health?….what all the anti lockdown clowns fail to recognise is aggregate demand is collapsed regardless….moving to level 3 or 2 is only going to have a marginal (and temporary) impact without eradication of the virus.

        • Sabine 3.3.2.2

          Well its ok for the non essential nurse, supermarket worker, delivery driver to be sacrificed to keep the economy going.

          Maybe we should all stay at home so that no one ever dies again.

    • "You say Sweden in now a bad example, but have they reached a peak? Yes no maybe?"

      Sweden had low death numbers reported over Easter (as they did the previous weekend) but have just jumped back up with 114 deaths to now total 1,033, which is 102 per 1 m and much higher than neighbouring Norway (26 per 1m) and Denmark (52 per 1m).

      Basing comparisons and arguments on single countries, on a snapshot data, is not good for making well informed assessments.

  4. dv 4

    Australia has 80 cases that are serious critical, NZ has 4

    AND Sweden has 100 deaths per m of pop

    https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

    • Sabine 4.1

      in 2018 Australia had 24.99 million people living there.

      Sweden has 10.23 million.

      and no one so far has been under virtual house arrest.

      not saying what they do is the correct answer, there is not. But these comparisons are dumb.

      More importantly really in order to keep death down would be testing. Wide spread drive through testing for everyone. Children, Adults all.

      And non of that is reason enough to not start beginning of a way out of lock down.

      and in saying that if people want to stay at home for the rest of their lifes in fear of an illness or another, may the government give them money and be done with it.

  5. Molly 5

    Living in close proximity to one of these "empathy-challenged" types, I would tend to agree. Luckily, we have had no more invited "visitors" to the property, but there is a lot of leaving and coming back, particularly late at night. A couple of outside public rants about how the "government is stealing everyone's money…", and several instances of revving the vehicle up and driving up and down the road outside. Which I guess is specifically for us, as we live on a semi-rural property with no other dwellings around.

    Any excuse, no matter how flimsy or absurd, will be gleefully used to justify their own preferred behaviour, which is basically one of self-satisfaction.

    • Tabletennis 5.1

      @ Sabine:" and in saying that if people want to stay at home for the rest of their lifes in fear of an illness or another, may the government give them money and be done with it."

      I vote for that:
      and when we over this lockdown, lets have a good hard look where this and previous viruses jumped from (and have been predicted) SARS, Swine-flu, ebola – here's me hoping…

  6. tc 6

    More irresponsible soapbox providing by a media that's forgotten or simply does not fact/reference check.

    Too busy clickbaiting and meme pushing.

  7. Andre 7

    All of us worldwide are now guinea pigs involuntarily stuck in really unfortunate health/economics experiments with a wide variety of imposed conditions.

    Personally, this little piggy is quite relieved to be in the group that's chosen the experimental conditions labeled "eliminate the virus as quickly as possible to minimise health expense and suffering, and there's historical evidence that suggests this also results in the best outcome economically".

    • Yes, all countries are having to experiment in a rapidly evolving situation. They didn't have any choice.

      Personally I'd far rather be here with what our Government is doing, leaning towards caution and saving lives. The Government says this should have better economic outcomes over time, but there's no way of being sure about that until afterwards, and the outcomes are bound to be imperfect – we just hope less imperfect than other options.

      We can't stay as we are, changes to levels and rules and health focus and economic support will need to be tried. I'd much rather have experimental tweaks than experimental lurches. That will make it easier to adjust, especially when inevitable mistakes are made.

      • mac1 7.1.1

        Yes, Pete, leaning towards caution in these times is safer, sounder and less severe if it's wrong than going too early.

        My ananlogy is with gambling at poker. People without a genuine stake in the game, who can afford to lose their gambling stake will plump for riskier behaviour.

        People who lack empathy, who are self-centred and even greedy, will go for the gamble.

        They have less to lose.

        Boris Johnson I hope has learned from his experience that there is a lot can be lost including lives, our most precious gift.

        Some opposition politicians are being influenced by others who have different stakes. different goals.

        Theye also may be influenced by being out on the margins watching the players rather than being at the table.

        It's what empathy and compassion are about. Taking personally the pain and suffering of others, accepting the consequences visited upon them as the same as upon us.

        "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, that you do unto me."

        Wise words and precept to follow as a politician.

  8. Ad 8

    Having different qualified academic opinion out in the public is a good idea right now.

    I don't really mind if their messaging is awkward – they aren't professional communicators.

    If they have something really worth saying they will go up to the parliamentary Select Committee and say so – and there they can be evaluated.

    Professor Skegg has had different views as well.

    Our PM seems pretty well across the alternative views and has been commenting over the last few briefings.

    Actually rather than more medical commentary, I'm waiting for a bit more pressure from business and from economists to start. We're well due to see what Robertson's text of his speech to business today looks like.

    • Carolyn_Nth 8.1

      The Nats and Seymour at the epidemic committee have been strongly about putting on pressure on the government for business interests and their right wing take on economic issues.

      • I Feel Love 8.1.1

        if the Nats were in charge they would've kowtowed to business long ago, they wouldn't have the guts to hold the line like the present Govt.

    • Bruce 8.2

      Sanctuary8

      15 April 2020 at 9:39 am

      I would like someone to ask Simon Thornley who is paying Blackland PR to run the campaign against the lockdown.

      From another thread

      'I don't really mind if their messaging is awkward – they aren't professional communicators.'

      The people at Blackland may take offence of your description of their work.

      • Muttonbird 8.2.1

        Fascinating. Private PR companies lobbying against the health and safety of New Zealand people.

    • woodart 8.3

      hypothetical question, if all the economists got the virus and kicked the bucket, what effect would it have on the economy. I submit that it would improve the general economy..

    • Sabine 8.4

      a few voices of the less educated, of those living in over crowded conditions, eating ramen and without a nice whenua to go fishing from your garden would be very much appreciated also.

      Cause these slick operators seem to run out of words to say nothing.

      We have had the same briefing now for weeks. So many sick, so many in hospital, so many tested, so many clusters. bullshit questions from the journos and be nice and kind.

      however nothing about increasing hospital capacities, more staffing for nursers and carers, free masks and gloves for everyone, aid for those that can't pay their bills or services their debts, schooling of the future – who is going to stay at home with the children while there is no more public schools – and so on and so forth. Or would that be upsetting to the dears?

      Its time for something more substantial.

      • Forget now 8.4.1

        D'ya reckon?

        • Sabine 8.4.1.1

          yes dear.

          i do.

          • Forget now 8.4.1.1.1

            Then provide evidence!

            That is if you wish to convince others to your viewpoint. If this is just a complicated form of computer-based masturbation to you to distract you from the social isolation then surely other places online have you covered?

            I am not trying to dismiss your lived experience. But we are dealing with an inhuman pitiless threat here. There are priorities, and while I am certainly behind an eventual scrutiny of actions taken during this emergency, I am willing to subsume my own desires for the public good at this time.

            Life is not fair.

            Sometimes there are no good choices. And even "least bad" can be hotly debated.

    • KJT 8.5

      "Qualified" being the operative word.

      And not supported by Auckland University "Managers" who see their over inflated salaries disappearing down the toilet, with the ending of the overseas, education for residency, scam.

  9. ianmac 9

    Back seat drivers are so annoying when they say you went the wrong way but I didn't tell you till now in case I was wrong, but if I am assertive enough you will loose confidence and we will all sink. I will then say, "I told you so!"

    I did not mention Simon or Thornley.

  10. observer 10

    These casually callous reckons are really a reformulation of Stalin's "one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic".

    Yesterday, Bloomfield and Ardern were asked about families being prohibited from seeing their loved ones as they lay dying. It seemed an absolutely reasonable point: how can lockdown rules be so strict that you can't even say goodbye to your parents, in person?

    Every "expert" who says "let hundreds of old people die, because flu" needs to say if they think that those old people will STILL have to be kept physically apart. Or should there be one exception, and another … and hundreds more, because that's only fair? And then let the virus spread throughout the land.

    Only on a spreadsheet can you ring-fence human beings. Separate the expendable from the rest. In real life, that's a morally bankrupt nightmare.

  11. Riff.s 11

    Beyond their false claim that covid-19 is no more deadly than seasonal flu, the worst aspect of their argument is that they present a plan to fail.

    What is the point of border restictions and track and trace if we are not trying to eradicate the virus? How long are over 60s supposed to self isolate? Years? No one will stick to it so it wont work.

  12. Adrian 12

    In this whole debate I have rarely heard mention of the costs both well-being wise and economicly of the eventual health load on an economy of the aftereffects of contracting C-19 even for the young. One only has to look at the startling evidence in mid-stage disease x-rays and MRIs etc to lung tissue. This will have huge long term consequences to the health of anyone of any age, not to mention the enormous cost to future health budgets. This stuff makes smoking look benign.

    I'll go with eradication thank you.

    • Sabine 12.1

      what will be the cost of well being wise and economically being locked up until 'eradication'? What if 'eradication' will never happen cause mutation?

      who will be the non essential workers that are to go out and produce the food, the water, the energy that we need to simply live?

      who will be the non essential healthcare workers that are allowed to die for the cause until 'eradication"

      who will be those that will die at home in domestic violence situations because people are losing it?

      And do all these guys and girls have a value that you care enough about to ask for it?

      Are these qeustions verboten?

      • Drowsy M. Kram 12.1.1

        "Are these qeustions verboten?" Evidently not, although that's an interesting style of debate.

        Is there anything in Adrian's comment @12 to suggest that "these qeustions" might be "verboten"? Adrian does raise the interesting issue of long-term sequelae of Covid-19 infections – is raising such issues "verboten"?

    • Treetop 12.2

      I raised the health outcome of Covid-19 last night on Open Mike Treetop @ 1.12.1.2.1.1 and recieved a response today.

      As you say "This stuff makes smoking look benign."

    • Treetop 12.3

      Have you seen the article today on stuff.co.nz on Covid-19 being systemic?

      The impact is severe on the person who has complications and the waiting time through the health system can be hard with a systemic condition due to requiring multiple specialists.

  13. UncookedSelachimorpha 13

    Siouxsie Wiles gives a great take-down of the fact-free reckons of the CovidPlanB clowns. Examples:

    Claim 2: Clearly, up to now, the virus has not had the devastating effect on hospital services as it was thought to

    This is completely misleading. The reason Covid-19 hasn’t had a devastating effect is because we went into lockdown.

    Claim 3: Evidence from Australia indicates it is safe to move to a situation similar to alert level two at the end of the four-week lockdown period

    Interestingly this group has moved to using Australia as an exemplar of how to deal with Covid-19, instead of Sweden, which a fortnight ago was hailed as “steering a more sensible course through this turbulent time”. Presumably because cases and deaths there are now increasing at an alarming rate, Sweden is not mentioned at all on the new Plan B website.

    • Ross 13.1

      This is completely misleading. The reason Covid-19 hasn’t had a devastating effect is because we went into lockdown.

      I'm not sure that a logical fallacy will cut the mustard. Plenty of countries haven't gone into lockdown. Iceland is one. The debate is a little more sophisticated than that.

      • lprent 13.1.1

        Islands that are a long way from anywhere have (by definition) much better border controls. NZ, Australia, Iceland, Greenland in particular come to mind. Your argument is a logical fallacy.

        This is a strongly congregating disease – it likes high density populations. Countries without large cities will have less of a spread problem because it is localised. This is the list of the largest cities in Iceland
        Reykjavik 118,918
        Kopavogur 31,719
        Hafnarfjoerdur 26,808
        Akureyri 17,693

        Can you spot the logical deficiency in your argument. Just look at the NZ city populations for instance.

        As far as I can see – you’re just a unsophisticated idiot without a decent argument and a habit of lying by omission.

        Perhaps you should now realise why incognito has you on moderation. It so we can demonstrate your gross failure to you.

        • Ross 13.1.1.1

          Perhaps you should now realise why incognito has you on moderation.

          I would imagine Incognito appreciates erudite and intelligent comments, that’s why he or she has me in moderation. But I could be wrong. 🙂

          • Incognito 13.1.1.1.1

            You are right and wrong at the same time.

            I don’t see any signs of you lifting your game.

            Create the Debate.

        • UncookedSelachimorpha 13.1.1.2

          Interesting point. Few numbers from Google, density per km^2:

          Reykjavik – 200-450 (depending on urban centre, or wider metropolitan area)

          Kopavogur – 462

          Auckland – 1210

          Wellington – 290-900 (urban centre or wider area)

          Christchurch – 270

          New York – 10,100

          I expect both the absolute total population and the density matter.

          • lprent 13.1.1.2.1

            Sure. And in reality what matters most is probably the number of people you come in contact with each day. And that varies quite a lot by city and transport systems.

            However I was more educating Ross about his piss-poor argument style than anything else. My standing educative technique is to take the persons style, enhance it reverse it, and see how they like it applied to them.

            In Ross’s case

            1. something parroted (I avoided that bit – harder to look up than make up an argument)
            2. quote or state largely irrelevant fact(s)
            3. without considering anything other relevant factors
            4. then sneer as if he exhibited some signs of intelligence beyond being a lowly parrot
            5. then walk away.

            It is straight out of the ACToid playbook, and largely explains why as a political party, they are now National’s hand-puppets.

  14. Forget now 14

    "…poor health literacy among a population is an underestimated public health problem globally…"

    https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(20)30086-4/fulltext

    There’s also some good lines in the (third last paragraph?), about the need for solidarity and social responsibility in public statements. But hard to copy/ paste on the phone – and it’s not very long or technical in its entirety, so read that…

  15. Tricledrown 15

    Hooton Plan B &National are prepared to experiment with loss of lives an overrun health system.Australia has a warmer climate plus better funded health system.Fact flu's and colds don't spread as rapidly in Warmer weather.without proper science taking a very highl risk decision could undo all the sacrifices made.

  16. Jeremy 16

    I don't think Sweden's numbers are scary or embarrassing, especially when viewed on a log scale, they're just further through their epidemic – which is kind of the point when they've committed to a herd immunity strategy.

    They're also right to be doing so, as is Dr. Thornley et al in my opinion.

    • Drowsy M. Kram 16.1

      Not all scientists agree with Dr Thornley and other proponents of a herd immunity strategy to neutralise the Covid-19 threat. IMHO the best strategy is to adopt a strong ‘transmission suppression’ strategy as early as possible. If that proves to be an over-reaction, then the strategy can easily be dialed back, but it’s much less effective to move in the opposite direction, trying to shut the gate after the horse has bolted.

      University of Auckland microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles is also horrified at the thought of attempting herd immunity without a vaccine.
      "I thought it was satire at first, I thought it was a joke."
      https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/coronavirus/120326939/nz-scientists-horrified-at-herd-immunity-strategy

      "It has become increasingly difficult to disentangle objective medical opinions about the best way to fight the pandemic, from neoliberal views that see prolonged stoppages and lockdowns as existential threats to profit."

      "Governments would be better off learning from countries that effectively contained the virus. They need to prioritise people's health over free-market economics. In the end, there can be no prosperous human economy when people are ill, dead or traumatised." – Vito Laterza and Louis Romer
      https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/coronavirus-herd-immunity-eugenics-market-200414104531234.html

      • Jeremy 16.1.1

        Except that is isn't proving easy to pull back, due to human's bias to engage in the sunk cost fallacy and in particular politician's bias to it. Also as evidenced by the fact we are now arguing whether it is an overreaction – when it clearly is.

        I have no idea why people think we should be listening to Dr. Wiles over Dr. Thornley, I think it is because she favours the status quo and appeals to authority, but understanding the intricacies of virology is far less important right now that understanding epidemic modelling, and from his bio it looks like Dr. Thornley is lecturer who teaches all the undergraduates how to use the modelling software. I.e. by action UoA has told us who is the expert and who's opinion is valuable.

        I also don't know why you think this is about free markets or neo-liberalism. We have two crappy choices; attempt to quarantine the elderly and immune compromised as perfectly as we can and then get to herd immunity as fast as we can, or fight reality for months or years and cause mass depression, suicides, substances abuse, murder, etc. via economic depression, which is already locked in to a certain extent by the lockdown, and we can only make it worse. I'm of the opinion we won't actually have option 2, to pretend that there aren't economic realities and the associated secondary health effects for very long, because the virus and a logical progression of world events are going to force herd immunity on to us any way, so might as well limit the death and destruction from economic ruin as much as possible. You do know the brunt of pain caused by the lockdown will be borne by the poor and middle class right?

        • Drowsy M. Kram 16.1.1.1

          We've each expressed opinions; history may show which was the better strategy for NZ. You believe that your opinion is correct – I disagree, and feel that saying "We have two crappy choices" is an over-simplification.

          You do know many of the additional deaths caused by adopting a herd immunity strategy would have been among the elderly, poor and ethnic minorities right?

          France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, has announced that the country will remain in coronavirus lockdown for another month.

          In a national address on Monday evening, he said that only by respecting the confinement rules would the battle against Covid-19 be won.

          Macron said France would start returning to normal life on 11 May, if citizens were “civic, responsible and respected the rules” – and if the number of cases of coronavirus continued to drop.
          https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/13/macron-france-remain-strict-lockdown-for-another-month

          • Jeremy 16.1.1.1.1

            There won't be additional deaths under a herd immunity strategy, there will more visible deaths but less overall deaths and far less years of human life lost.

            • Drowsy M. Kram 16.1.1.1.1.1

              Interesting opinion – could you refer me to some real-world (i.e. not modelling) epidemiological datasets to backup the assertion of “less overall deaths“. I've read reports suggesting that herd-immunity 'strategies' can result in healthcare services being overwhelmed (sometimes to the extent of infected individuals being abandoned to die in distress), leading in more deaths overall compared to strict lockdown strategies that 'flatten the curve'.

              This is a new virus (no vaccine or other reliable treatment) – NZ had its first reported case of Covid-19 infection less than 50 days ago. Advocating for a herd immunity strategy as the best way to deal with an epidemic caused by a new pathogen is imprudent IMHO. NZ is in an enviable position – it may be a bit too aspirational for some, but won’t it be wonderful if the goal of eliminating Covid-19 from NZ is realised. Only 10 new cases today smiley

              https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/world/grim-find-bodies-coronavirus-victims-left-fend-themselves-in-spanish-nursing-homes

              "The healthcare system in Italy, which is home to one of the world’s oldest populations, has been overwhelmed, with medical workers stretched thin and forced to decide who to save."
              "Experts think people likely develop immunity after recovering from a coronavirus infection, but more research is needed."
              https://www.businessinsider.com.au/coronavirus-cases-maps-us-world-spread-symptoms-death-rate-2020-1?r=US&IR=T

            • Drowsy M. Kram 16.1.1.1.1.2

              Bugger – 15 new cases; not sure how I read '10'. Wishful thinking I guess.

        • Psycho Milt 16.1.1.2

          …attempt to quarantine the elderly and immune compromised as perfectly as we can…

          1. Because why should you be inconvenienced just for the sake of the elderly and immune-compromised, right?

          2. How long do you picture holding the nation's elderly and a wide variety of other people in enforced quarantine so that you can go back to BAU?

          • Jeremy 16.1.1.2.1

            1). This Plan B as it is being called is the best way to limit the number of deaths in the elderly and immune compromised, under the current plan there is going to be periodic flare ups in care and rest homes over a long period of time, no lives will ultimately be saved. Under a strategy where they are protected as much as possible and we rapidly try and get to herd immunity in the rest of the community the interface between them and the rest of the population that could hurt them is limited to as little and as short as possible.

            You really have no idea what my motivations are, nor I yours. Without getting into the details, the current situation is likely to benefit me personally in the medium to long term more than the alternative I propose, it's just that the alternative is the rational thing to do to limit overall deaths and harm.

            2). About 2 months this year, and possible 2 months next winter (depending on whether the virus becomes seasonal and there is a reoccurrence next year – a big if).

            • Psycho Milt 16.1.1.2.1.1

              This Plan B as it is being called is the best way to limit the number of deaths in the elderly and immune compromised…

              Allegedly, yes. Funny how few of their colleagues seem to share that view.

              …under the current plan … no lives will ultimately be saved.

              That's the theory, at least. In reality, an approach of letting a lot of elderly and immune-compromised people die now because we think they probably would end up dying later anyway under a more cautious approach is a high-risk strategy – one in which the people proposing the strategy aren't the ones being subjected to the risk. That alone should prompt us to treat the suggestion with skepticism, especially so if we're aware the suggestion is being publicised by an expensive PR company noted for helping companies overcome public opposition to their practices.

              About 2 months this year, and possible 2 months next winter…

              In your dreams, maybe.

        • Sanctuary 16.1.1.3

          Reading the comment from Jeremy, I can see Blackland's work is done with him.

          • Jeremy 16.1.1.3.1

            Do you have any actual points, or simply concede the argument and resort to snide quips?

            • Forget now 16.1.1.3.1.1

              Jeremy

              There is so much wrong in your drivel that it is hard to know where to start. Certainly not by allowing you the last word, so if you wanna go, I have all day!

              That said, Sanctuary probably has the right idea in dismissing your arguments as being made in poor faith. On the off chance that you might actually be sincere, I will disagree with them for the sake of discussion. Anyway, it'll be good practice for family phone calls with the Olds.

              But I will wait until you reply that you really want to get down to details before wasting the time. It's quite possible you have already run from this hit.

              • Jeremy

                What hit, no one has made any actual counter arguments yet. Just assumed I'm motivated by financial gain, or something.

                These arguments have been the equivalent of saying "why don't you support lowering the speed limit to 5 km/hr, don't you care about dead motorists", it's simplistic self-righteousness.

                Since just after the lockdown began (which I initially supported and thought was reasonable at the time, so don't think the government should be criticised for) I have been making similar arguments based on the actual data points where we have good reason to have faith in the numbers when they have come out – most came out in the first week of lockdown. They clearly show that if no measures are taken that this virus is at worst 4 times worse than regular seasonal flu, will infect 6 times as many people in a lot shorter space of time, this is obviously in the absolute worst case and if we do nothing to stop it's spread (which is not credible) yet the modelling included this type of scenario at much higher infection fatality rates than could possibly be justified to essentially purposefully scare people. The virus is, of course, a massive risk that has to be dealt with, but the current plan is riskier and has already locked in a few thousand (largely hidden) deaths of young, healthy people, not to mention the systemic risks to our health, economy, respect for the rule of law, and a multitude of other unintended consequences we haven't even thought of yet, we have a better idea of the worst case for the virus.

                It's also important to note that when I started talking about this almost no one in the general public had doubts about the soundness of the lockdown or the elimination strategy, now an increasing number the journalists, politicians, economists and scientists are speaking out, and it is only a matter of time before reality forces us to move to this Plan B or something similar, but how long we take will make a massive difference to the damage done in the meantime.

            • Sanctuary 16.1.1.3.1.2

              Actually I just judged you on your own words. You start your argument with with a classic bit of fake news false equivalence –

              "…I have no idea why people think we should be listening to Dr. Wiles over Dr. Thornley…"

              that tells me you've drunk thirstily from the Blackland kool-Aid.

              • Jeremy

                I doubt even know who Blackland is, and have been making similar arguments about this virus for a couple of weeks now.

                I read Dr. Wiles most recent article on Scoop, it's filled with either purposeful inaccuracies, or things she should know but doesn't. Either option doesn't speak well for her competence and she like so many others seem to have developed an obsessive single focus on limiting deaths with or from the virus, without any ability to understand secondary, tertiary, etc. health consequences. Combine that with her CV compared to Dr. Thornley's and I don’t think it is that hard to figure out who has the better expertise and whose opinion we should be taking greater account of.

                • Jeremy

                  Sorry, it was on The Spinoff.

                • Forget now

                  Jeremy

                  Argument from ignorance is a primary logical fallacy. If you don't know something then go learn before typing. Spreading your vacuum of knowledge actually dilutes understanding.

                  Anyway, I see that dv and sanctuary are willing to act as the phagocytes to this infection. I have grass to watch growing that will be a more productive use of my time than matching words with a determined ignoramus.

                  • Jeremy

                    Both sides are arguing from ignorance to a certain extent, that's a nature of the problem.

                    Failing to understand that and engaging in uncritical expert worship reveals who is ignorant IMO.

  17. dv 17

    "read Dr. Wiles most recent article on Scoop, it's filled with either purposeful inaccuracies

    OK list them.

    • Jeremy 17.1

      1). That CFRs are 1%-5%, Italy 10%, etc. Setting aside the problem of using CFR instead of IFR, we can have high confidence from good datasets that the upper bound of IFR is 0.37%. There can be no justification for this type of scare-mongering reporting apart from bad faith or incompetence at this stage.

      2). If you read the Plan B website they state that the pressure on the hospital system is less than projected under the number of cases that we currently have, Dr. Wiles has purposefully (or incompetently) misrepresented this to say the total pressure is less because we had a lockdown, a misrepresentation of their argument made.

      3). She tries to insinuate that the group have nefariously moved their comparison from Sweden to Australia. There is no evidence to suggest that they had any other motivation than thinking that Australia was now a better comparison. The numbers from Sweden aren't scary when you consider they likely far further through their epidemic and their hospitals haven't been overrun – yet, I doubt the group would have any issue saying Sweden is handling this much better than we are planning.

      4). Comparison to the UK (and in particular London) from where we are now is irrelevant. We have cases relatively contained and can make sensible plans to protect the at risk and have a linear spread.

      5). The Health versus the Economy fallacy she talks about is itself a fallacy, as the argument is Health versus Health. It's not surprising that a Microbiologist doesn't seem to rely understand this while at least paying lip service to it.

      • dv 17.1.1

        1 we can have high confidence from good datasets that the upper bound of IFR is 0.37

        Explan why

        2 May be a difference of interpretation

        3 She tries to insinuate that the group have nefariously

        Your words

        4 Sounds reasonanble

        5 Your interpretation. Eg US has taken economy over health, and look how well that has panned out.

      • Tabletennis 17.1.2

        Thank you Jeremy: Just as an addition to know that the adviser to the Swedish Govenment is a Prof Johan Giesecke, epidemiologist, who is an advisor to WHO on the govid pandemic.
        In an interview, I read, he explains why he considers lockdowns are not evidence-based, and why the best policy is to protect the elderly and other vulnerable groups. He says this eventually leads to herd immunity as a by-product, rather than a goal.

        • Drowsy M. Kram 17.1.2.1

          Epidemiologist Prof. Johan Giesecke may believe that human populations will eventually acquire herd immunity to Covid-19, but as this is a new virus that has been infecting humans for less than six months, it would be prudent to do more research into the biology of this new pathogen, including any long-term sequelae due to infection, before assuming herd immunity is an optimal solution.

          Not all epidemiologists are virologists or immunologists. Epidemiologists may deduce accurate models for outbreaks of well-understood microbial pathogens, and can narrow down sources of infection by novel pathogens, but understanding a new pathogen such as Covid-19 requires lots of basic research on the (molecular) biology of the virus and how it interacts with human cells, tissues and immune systems. There are no shortcuts.

          Sweden currently has 139 Covid-19-attributed deaths per million people, more than the U.S.A. and Ireland, and less than (in order) Belgium, Spain, Italy, France, U.K., Netherlands and Switzerland. Sweden's Covid-19 response strategy is not an exemplar for NZ, IMHO.

          The Grim Truth About the “Swedish Model”

          "Sweden’s approach turned out to be misguided for at least three reasons. However virtuous Swedes may be, there will always be free riders in any society, and when it comes to a highly contagious disease, it doesn’t take many to cause major harm. Moreover, Swedish authorities only gradually became aware of the possibility of asymptomatic transmission, and that infected individuals are most contagious before they start showing symptoms. And, third, the composition of the Swedish population has changed."
          https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/swedish-coronavirus-no-lockdown-model-proves-lethal-by-hans-bergstrom-2020-04

          Covid-19 coronavirus: Sweden is an outlier in virus restrictions

          Sten Linnarsson, a professor at Karolinska Institute, a prominent medical university in Sweden, said the concern centres on "the assessments and the course that the Swedish Government has taken through this epidemic, and especially because there is really a lack of scientific evidence being put forward for these policies."

          Linnarsson compared Sweden's handling of the virus to letting a kitchen fire burn with the intent of extinguishing it later.

          "That doesn't make any sense. And the danger, of course, is that it burns the whole house down," he said.
          https://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=12320747

        • Drowsy M. Kram 17.1.2.2

          Sweden has risen to 150 deaths per million now, cf. NZ with 2 deaths per million.
          Sympathies to the Swedes; at my age, I’d rather be in NZ at the moment.

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