Features Australia

Out with the old

The future looks bleak when politics, not science, drives the response to Covid-19

5 September 2020

9:00 AM

5 September 2020

9:00 AM

Based on the seven-day rolling average, reported Covid-19 deaths in the northern hemisphere peaked in April, 2020. This suggests, even before a vaccine is found, the world is gaining herd immunity. That said, the elderly and infirm remain exposed and, in a break from past policy prescriptions, should become the Covid priority.

Indeed, according to Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, Peter Rozen, federal authorities in Australia have failed to prepare for, manage or even investigate the deadly spread of coronavirus through nursing homes. In Melbourne, elderly people infected with Covid-19 were even refused hospital treatment. According to Mr Rozen, 68 per cent of all Covid-19 deaths in Australia relate to people in residential aged care, one of the world’s highest rates.

Sydney University psychiatry lecturer, Neil Jeyasingam, blames doctors who his research shows exhibit the worst perspectives on ageing, ‘while nurses tended to have middle to negative attitudes toward older people’. He says ‘All the studies show the same thing — healthcare professionals are generally ageist’.

True or false, it seems ageism may have motivated five US Democratic governors to force nursing homes to take Covid-positive patients. Under instructions from Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York hospitals unnecessarily discharged more than 6,300 recovering coronavirus patients into nursing homes during the height of the pandemic. In all, 46 per cent of US Covid deaths have been in aged care. Like America, in early April, British hospitals decided to free up beds for a possible influx of Covid-19 patients. Official guidance stated that negative tests were not required before a patient was returned to an aged care home. Unsurprisingly, a third of coronavirus deaths in the United Kingdom have been in care. In Canada, it’s 81 per cent, while in Europe, the World Health Organisation estimates that up to 50 per cent of all Covid-19 deaths have occurred among long-term aged care residents.

These numbers suggest wilful neglect and that the old and frail no longer rate electorally or medically. It’s not as though their susceptibility to infection was unknown. Last March, the WHO Europe was warning that older adults were at a significantly increased risk from Covid-19. Obviously long-term care homes are where that cohort is concentrated.

Clearly, governments and their ‘expert’ medical advisers believe scarce resources are better devoted to draconian lockdowns under the illusion of virus elimination. This despite the prestigious medical journal, the Lancet, reporting that full lockdowns and border closures are ‘not associated with statistically significant reductions in the number of critical cases or overall mortality’.

Oxford University professor of theoretical epidemiology, Sunetra Gupta, also argues that the cost of lockdowns is too high for the poorest in society and questions the language and quality of debate on the pandemic’s impact. She finds that younger and healthier members of the community have gained some protection from previous exposure to seasonal coronaviruses and that ‘new studies are showing that people are actually fighting off infection’. For these revelations she is suffering ‘the calumny’ directed at her and her team for daring to disagree with the orthodoxy.

Dr Gupta now understands global health politics. Her empirical evidence detracts from the climate of fear the authorities need for control. Like forecasting 50,000 deaths and five million cases as Australia’s ‘best case’ scenario. It matters little that despite widespread ministerial and bureaucratic mismanagement, the worst-case scenario to date is around 600 deaths and 26,000 cases. Having frightened the populace into submission, the solemn daily theatre of death and case counts provides sufficient political capital to keep borders shut, businesses and jobs in ‘hibernation’ and the authority to threaten even tougher laws and punishment should citizens disobey. The political purview even extends to virus treatment.

Ever since US President Donald Trump personally endorsed hydroxychloroquine, his opponents, the media and partisan health ‘experts’, have campaigned against its use. Yet a recent poll of 2,171 physicians taken across 30 countries, found 37 per cent of frontline doctors believed HCQ was the ‘most effective therapy’ for the virus. Even the renowned  Mayo Clinic has reported that ‘appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated geriatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of hydroxychloroquine in the elderly’.

But multiple credible studies and anecdotal evidence are not enough to persuade the Morrison government’s National Covid-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce to depart from the anti-Trump party line. Or the Victorian government, which now labels this decades-old drug a ‘poison’. What about the Hippocratic Oath?

In truth, base politics not health is driving the response to this pandemic. Rather than marshal available resources to protect society’s most vulnerable, the impossible goal of elimination has given political legitimacy to drastic states of emergency.

In exercising these unprecedented powers, government incompetence has been in full view. The economic and social cost of it will never be known. Yet, there is no accountability. There has been the odd expression of sorrow and regret and the federal aged care minister has been ‘cut out’ of decisions to activate new emergency measures during a Covid-19 outbreak. But, that’s it. No consequences. No jobs lost, no resignations. Just federal and state leaders and medical officers running interference for one another.

The pandemic’s behaviour in the northern hemisphere looks just like any coronavirus. Steeply rising and then declining, death rates punctuated by spikes. Its severity depends on population density demographics and proximity to the Equator. As herd immunity grows the virus’s lethality diminishes.

But, if the virus is receding, political leaders and health authorities seem reluctant to acknowledge it, let alone relinquish their coercive powers. This may well prove to be Covid-19’s most sinister legacy – an oppressive, economically challenged, socialist state, which cares little for its ageing and from which future generations in search of liberty may have to fight their way out.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments