Sunday, March 22, 2020



Kenny Rogers:

Kenny Rogers has passed away, aged 81.  Now that the dealin’s done, he got the best that he could hope for, having died at his home of natural causes. RIP Kenny.

Some online comments:

Kenny Rogers.....not anymore he doesn't.

Kenny Rogers was once injured after a wheel came off his car. As they lifted him into the ambulance he started singing "You picked a fine time to leave me, loose wheel.”

Oh my God, they killed Kenny!

I was at a country and western festival at the weekend  when the woman next to me said " Do you know Kenny Rogers well?" I said "No, but thanks for the tip."

Self isolation and lockdowns:

As home isolations increase and lockdowns become more frequent, there have been numerous items and help tips on how to cope.  I have not yet been put in that situation but with office appointments kept to a minimum, there have been days without seeing any people except other members of the office.  Kate and I have been spending weekends at home without seeing anyone.  It has made me think of Anne Frank and the other persons who spent from July 1942 to August 1944 in concealed rooms in the building where her father had worked. Frank, her mother, father and sister, plus four others, hid in an area of 42 sq m (450 sq feet).  What of others confined . . .  Julian Assange, Elizabeth Fritzl and her children, captives released in the US.  Still, the fact that others have been worse off doesn’t necessarily make it easier.

More on the Coronavirus:

John Daley, the CEO of Grattan Institute, has written an article about the coronavirus which may be read at:

It is a lengthy article and I have provided a summary (unfortunately also lengthy) below.

According to Wikipedia, Grattan Institute is an Australian public policy think tank, established in 2008. The Melbourne-based institute is non-aligned, however it defines itself as contributing "to public policy in Australia as a liberal democracy in a globalised economy." It is partly funded by a $34 million endowment, with major contributions from the Australian Federal Government, the State Government of Victoria, the University of Melbourne and BHP Billiton.

Daley’s article is headed “Coronavirus: Tough choice Australia faces that could help it avoid an ‘epidemic yoyo’."  The subheading sates “Australia has three choices to deal with the coronavirus pandemic but only one of them could help it avoid a devastating ‘epidemic yoyo.’ “

Daley argues that an appropriate strategy adopted in respect of the coronavirus pandemic - public health, government spending, and freedom of movement – depends on the endgame.  He posits three possible endgames, all unattractive, but one seen as better than the others.


Flattening the curve refers to community isolation measures that keep the daily number of disease cases at a manageable level for medical providers.  It recognises that infections will continue to grow until the epidemic has run its course and that there will be many deaths.

The problem with this option is that countries adopting such choice are likely to run out of intensive care capacity. Flattening the curve through measures such as spatial distancing can lower the peak in infections, but the health system will still run out of capacity.

A policy to “shut everything” to reduce infections will still see infections rise and hospitals struggle, especially when the exponential growth in infections starts to take place.  Let’s say that one person infects 10 people, and each of them infects 10 people, then the infection rate will be greater and faster as time progresses.  That is exponential growth. Containment becomes progressively more difficult.

Once infection rates fall in response to the shutdown, there is a risk of public pressure to open again too early.  This means that the infection rate starts to rise again, the “epidemic yoyo”.

According to Daley: 
“Whether that happens or not, flattening the curve will require us to suppress economic and social activity for at least 12 months, and possibly much longer.  The economic – and social – cost will be enormous.  No matter how much money governments throw at the economy, most businesses cannot survive the absence of normal activity for more than a few months. It is not just tourism and hospitality. Companies small and large across sectors from household services to manufacturing to construction, are developing and executing plans to sack hundreds of thousands of people.  Unemployment will soar, probably driving a sharp fall in house prices, causing big problems for banks.”

Daley states that a variant of Endgame A is to isolate everyone over 60 (the age group most at risk), infect as many younger people as possible, and then hope that the disease dies out.  This is not a plausible option in that pockets of infection could result in localized outbreaks, especially in nursing homes, and that isolation from carers, food providers and the like will not be feasible.  There will also be deaths in the under 60s.


Endgame B is to trace and track every infection, something governments are trying to do.

The problem here in NSW with such policy is that we are not doing it very well. Thousands of potentially infected people are getting off planes and people have been let off arriving cruise ships, without testing and, in the case of the Ruby Princess, with four confirmed cases of COVID-19 158 sick passengers on board having reported sick.  People are requested to voluntarily self isolate and allowed into the community.

In such circumstances the infections rise and it becomes practically impossible to track and trace, enabling even greater infection and  putting us back in Endgame A.

Daley opines “Endgame B is only plausible if you start with very few infections and have sealed borders.  Tasmania is now in that world, but other Australian states are not.”


Endgame C is to “stop then restart”.

“This means minimising activity and interactions, and sealing the borders to passenger traffic including citizens (although not trade), until infections are driven down to zero.  Only essential services would be maintained (particularly the food supply chain and utilities such as electricity, water and the internet). . . .  the imperative would be to implement as many as possible at once, including closing schools, universities, colleges, public transport and non-essential retail, and confining people to their homes as much as possible.  Police should visibly enforce the lockdown, and all confirmed cases should be housed in government-controlled facilities. This might seem unimaginable, but it is exactly what has already happened in China, South Korea and Italy.  Once infections are at zero, and stay there for a fortnight or so to ensure there are no asymptomatic cases, economic and social activity can restart sequentially, although international borders would have to remain closed to passenger traffic until there is a vaccine.”


- Governments would also need to implement widespread testing and tracking to identify and squash any recurrence (something the shutdown would give them time to set up and improve). 

- We don’t yet have China’s ability to track and trace. But in a national emergency, setting up systems to track people and their contacts using mobile data might be worth both the money and the invasion of privacy. 

- Almost half of Australia’s new cases are getting off planes, and every one of them increases the risks of recurrence. Mere voluntary isolation is nothing like safe enough. An alternative might be to allow Australian citizens to enter, provided they go into enforced isolation in a quarantine station room – for which airport hotels could be repurposed. 

- In effect, Endgame C appears to be the strategy of China and South Korea – and domestically Tasmania is heading in the same direction. 

- Endgame C appears to be working so far in China, where the only new cases on Thursday were incoming passengers, each of whom is required to spend 14 days in supervised isolation in a designated hotel. China went from 4,000 new cases per day to 20 per day in six weeks with an infection rate that dropped below 0.5. 

- In Endgame C, it is plausible the shutdown would only need to last about eight weeks. 

- In Australia, if we achieved an infection rate of even 0.8, new infections per day would reduce from 100 to 10 in about six weeks, at which point track and trace becomes much more effective. 

- If Endgame C is the dominant strategy, it makes sense to implement it immediately and aggressively. The longer we wait, the longer that economic activity has to remain at a standstill to get back to zero cases. 

- Endgame C isn’t pretty. Until a vaccine is deployed – and we’re punting that there will be a vaccine – there will be no meaningful international travel, tourism or students for at least 12 months. But most of these those things won’t be happening under Endgames A or B either. 

- If it is communicated clearly, Endgame C would give businesses a plausible end date. They would have a reason to hang on if government intervenes to tide them over. 

- Measures might include forgiving taxes, paying a fraction of wages (but also requiring employees to be paid less overall), mandating big temporary rent reductions (landlords are typically better placed to absorb losses than small businesses), providing loans, and encouraging – or requiring – banks to suspend loan repayments and perhaps interest payments. 

- Psychologically, it would provide genuine hope. We should aim for eight weeks, and provision for 12 in case it is harder than we expect. 

- Endgame C is not available to every country. The disease has already spread too far in Iran, and may have done so in the United States. It’s a difficult strategy for countries with big land borders with neighbours that let the disease run. 

- Australia has the advantage of being an island, with a major trading partner that seems to be adopting the same strategy. This time around, we might be the less unlucky country – if we can act quickly and decisively. 

- It’s possible that Endgame C might not work. Despite our best efforts, we might not be able to reduce infections, or the disease might recur when we think it has been eliminated. But the costs of giving it a try are relatively low – in both lives and economic costs – compared with Endgame A. In the worst case, it gives us more time to increase critical care capacity and prepare for Endgame A. 

- Each of the endgames are unpleasant. COVID-19 is the real-life “trolley problem” in which someone is asked to choose between killing a few or killing many. When any of us are presented with the trolley problem, the all-but universal response is to refuse to choose. That is what we are doing at the moment, and it will just make our problems worse. 

- We should recognise this psychology, and decide to choose the least-bad endgame. The faster we do it, the less bad it will be.

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