Features Australia

Deer in the headlights, frogs in boiling water

Covid is stripping us of our freedoms. Who will stop it?

4 September 2021

9:00 AM

4 September 2021

9:00 AM

A recent essay by Pete Shmigel on Flat White is a poignant reminder of how people who experienced tyranny behind the Iron Curtain have been among the first to fear the creeping authoritarianism of Western democracies in thrall to China’s brutal suppression of the Wuhan virus. Way back in the mists of time, I was living in New Delhi when Indira Gandhi declared a 21-month emergency in June 1975 to impose dictatorial rule. Overnight, the political and social atmosphere changed with a palpable sense of fear as political opponents were imprisoned and colleagues and neighbours turned into informants and snitches. My first academic article was on that experience. Two observations are worth recalling. We take freedom for granted but feel the sting of its absence when abruptly robbed of it. In a revealing statement, PM Gandhi said when the government had ‘allowed’ freedoms, but people had abused them, implying that liberties are in the gift of governments to dispense or withhold. I didn’t forsee that belief taking hold in almost all Western democracies within my lifetime, terrified by a disease of relatively moderate severity in the history of pandemics. Like frogs in water coming slowly to the boil, we have remained unconcerned as liberties were steadily stripped away and our attachment to freedom proved to be virus-thin.

The widespread proliferation of masks in public is part of the slow boil process. The pointlessness of the most common types of masks outside healthcare settings, unless you are unwell, is easy to show both on the science and visually with charts. The trajectory of infection curves is unaffected by imposing and lifting mask mandates: there is no visible inflection point on the slope to coincide with masks. ‘Don’t be selfish. For the sake of others, just mask up, it’s no big deal’, we’ve been admonished. Except their most potent result has been to normalise unquestioning and habitual obedience to diktats as citizens became subjects.

‘Grab a mask’ has been replaced with ‘get the jab’ as the metaphorical equivalent of the 100 degrees Celsius setting on the dial to bring the water to boil. Vaccines don’t stop infection and spread but reduce severe illness and death for the most vulnerable elderly group. According to 2021 data from Public Heath England, the unvaccinated over-50s are more than three times at higher risk of death from a Delta variant infection than the fully vaccinated. A recent Lancet study found vaccinated healthcare workers in a Vietnamese hospital were carrying 251 times the viral load in their nostrils as the unvaccinated. Dr Peter McCullough comments the vaccine transforms people into ‘presymptomatic superspreaders’. If – a big ‘if’ – this is replicated and confirmed, the vaccinated will pose the greater danger to others. Would digital certificates be used to keep them away from public spaces? Australian authorities haven’t bothered to justify vaccine apartheid despite similar transmissibility. Nor to explain what happens to those with naturally acquired immunity through infection that is both more effective and lasts longer.


Ross Clark reports on a new Israeli study which found that ‘double-jabbed, previously uninfected people are 13 times as likely to get Covid’ as unvaccinated people with natural immunity through infection. The bigger long-term danger of lockdowns is their ready public acceptability will empower every wannabe social engineer, power-hungry politician and control-freak bureaucrat to impose draconian controls for their favoured emergency du jour.

Also, like deer caught in Covid headlights, we ignore other grave health costs with accumulating undiagnosed and untreated illnesses. The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics monthly update on mortality shows that until 31 May this year, 3,475 more Australians died than the five-year average in 2015–19. That’s forty times more excess deaths in the first five months than Covid deaths in eight months of 2021. The worst affected were cancer, diabetes and dementia. Lockdowns impair the capacity of the health system to treat illnesses in a timely manner, with heightened distress and anxiety from isolation and loneliness, increased fear of contracting the illness by going to the GP or hospital, cancelled screenings for illnesses that are treatable if caught early and deferred operations. Yet no government or chief health officer will be held accountable.

Hell, no one has even been subjected to aggressive questioning by reporters. There’s no daily solemn agonising by politicians and CHOs about the tragic toll, the unacceptability of just one preventable death and the determination to pursue zero excess death. James Allan is right to ask if journalists are lazy or dumb in not challenging the growing gulf around the world between official claims and contrary data. Hysteria, hypocrisy and selective morality reign supreme, with the PM and state premiers in office but the health bureaucrats and police commissioners in power. At about the same time as the myth of US exceptionalism was buried in Afghanistan by the Taliban, the myth of Australia’s Covid exceptionalism has been felled by the Delta variant. Scott Morrison has used new modelling from the Doherty Institute to outline a multi-phase roadmap with 70 and 80 per cent adult vaccinations as key milestones. Given the wildly inaccurate original Doherty modelling in March 2020, why exactly should we have confidence in the new model?

With 3,668 new infections recorded on 23 August, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Germany will stop using the infection rate as the metric for deciding if restrictions should be in force. They’ve been using 7-day thresholds of 35, 50 and 100 infections per 100,000 people to trigger openings and closures. Instead, Germany will monitor hospitalisations to assess if the health system is becoming overburdened. After two months of tightening restrictions and accelerated vaccine take-up, NSW’s daily ‘cases’ broke the 1,000 barrier on 26 August. Rather than accept lockdowns don’t work and vaccines are leaky, authorities blame insufficient public compliance with arbitrary and draconian but not always scientifically justified regulations. Who knew that watching sunsets should come with a compulsory health warning? Against all overseas experience, CHO Kerry Chant insists that vaccinating 16-39 year olds will ‘break the transmission chain’. Meanwhile Canberra recorded nine new Covid cases on 25 August, taking its total of active cases to 176 from 1 when the lockdowns were first brought in.

On Germany’s yardstick, this equates to a 14-day rolling average of just over 3 daily ‘cases’ per 100,000 people. Yet it’s concerning enough for the ACT to reject easing restrictions. In a new CIS/YouGov Poll, 22 per cent of Australians support lifting restrictions when all adults have been offered access to the vaccine. The Liberal Democrats at least have committed to this sensible policy.

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