Oz for Dummies: Week 7, 2022

(February 13–20) Omicron and how to live with it / Pandemic normality in the land of Oz (and New Zealand and Europe) / Win for the EC and von der Leyen and most likely for the EU

/ Omicron and how to live with it

Germany, France, and several other European countries are soon headed the Scandinavian way (see last week’s Oz4Dummies) of abandoning various civil-rights restrictions, and no minute too early. Germany has also, effective immediately, taken off its list of countries classifed as high-risk about twenty countries including Afghanistan, Algeria, India, Ireland, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Tunisia, The United Arab Emirates, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and The United States of America, all of which has implications for travellers returning home.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has published important (albeit provisional) data on COVID deaths in Australia until 31 Jan 2022. I have to dive deeper into the data but one thing that struck me on a quick read was the differential impact on ethnic groups:

Death due to COVID-19: Country of birth

Those who died of COVID-19 with a country of birth overseas, had an age-standardised death rate close to three times that of people who were born in Australia (6.8 deaths per 100,000 people versus 2.3 deaths).

Those with a country of birth in the Middle East had the highest age-standardised death rate at 29.3 deaths per 100,000 people.

Those with a country of birth in the United Kingdom and Ireland had the lowest age-standardised death rate at 2.1 per 100,000 people.

Those born in the Eastern European region had the highest median age at death at 91.8 years. Those born in the Oceania and Antarctic region (excluding Australia) had the lowest median age at death at 70.7 years.

Apparently we are not sitting all in the same boat.

Meanwhile, the consequences of years of lockdown are becoming clearer with the day. Recent data from England’s National Child Measurement Programme are shocking indeed.

I would be surprised if the data for the land of Oz are not worse, in particular in Victoria. Increased obesity is of course only one facet of the many costs that have been imposed on the yung uns during the last two years. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has called for a National COVID-19 taskforce and a Chief Pediatrician to lead the effort.

/ Pandemic normality in the land of Oz

The Oz news of the week came from McGowanLaLaland aka Western Australia, where the supreme leader has decided that 4 March 2022 is the right point in time to open up after all, leaving more egg on the face of his Health Minister — the same dingbat that diagnosed the Eastern states in effective lockdown while tv and social media showed raucious crowds at the Australian Open for example.

Just last week this dingbat laid it into a modeller who had urged the WA government to open up in early March. Her dismissive, and arrogant, comments from a couple of days ago are worth remembering. How long does it take for a dingbat like her to get the boot?

WA government waves off concerns

Health Minister Amber Jade-Sanderson dismissed Professor Milne’s modelling.

“I have not seen that,” she said.

“I think the reflection of the CHO is that Professor Milne has done, has assisted with some modelling in the past, but he is not an epidemiologist, he is a mathematician and we take advice from the public health officials who are epidemiologists.”

The latest weekly NSW Health summary report for the week 23 January 2022 to 29 January 2022 (inclusive) is out; here is an encouraging graph:

Three weeks later we know already that hospitalizations are down to about 1,250 and ICU stays to about 80, as of this weekend. Whatevewr happened to the catastrophic surge some alarmists predicted?

Some creditable experts (Greg Dore, Cath Bennett, and Peter Collignon) have called for current close-contact isolation rules to be abandonned, or at least dramatically reduced. The author of the article points out that about 114,000 people tested positive for the virus during the past fortnight, including more than 14,000 school-aged children recorded under the rapid test program rolled out by the state government. The current isolation rules require for every close (family) contact to self-isolate for seven days from a positive test leading to considerable disruptions for those afflicted. It seems self-evident that, given the relatively minor effects that infections have on the (fully) vaccinated, these current rules are not incentive-compatible and that many have strong incentives to be economic with the truth about their true state of infection, or that they might prefer not to know that state in the first place.

/ Pandemic normality in New Zealand

With numbers in New Zealand increasing, this comparison of VIC, NSW, and New Zealand data is very welcome.

/ Pandemic normality in Europe

The interesting developments in Europe are a template for countries transitioning decisively to pandemic normality and the wider acceptance of the fact that COVID does not represent a societal threat any more.

/ European Court decision — win for von der Leyen and the EU?

The European Union’s top court last week cleared the way to cut billions of euros of funds to Poland and Hungary, whose populist rulers have engaged in a number of democratic-rights violations. Warsaw and Budapest had challenged a EU sanction mechanism which allows the EU to cut funding to member countries that break the EU laws by imposing political control over the judiciary and media, and restricting civil rights.

Both countries have long been big beneficiaries of EU funds, which the bloc has poured into the former communist countries to help develop their economies since they joined in 2004.

The decision (which cannot be appealed) looks like a decisive and important win for von der Leyen and the EC, it seems to me. Money talks. Being able to discipline rogue governments like the ones in Hungary and Poland can only help the EU’s internal cohesion, and its international standing.

And that’s this week’s wrap-up:

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Andreas Ortmann

Andreas Ortmann

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EconProf: I post occasionally on whatever tickles my fancy: Science, evidence production, the Econ tribe, Oz politics, etc. Y’all r entitled to my opinions …