Henry Ergas and Joe Branigan have just had a new paper published by the Menzies Research Centre, COVID19: Getting Australia Safely Back to Work. Yesterday I interviewed Joe about the paper and you can hear our conversation using the player below:
Here is a sample of Joe’s comments:
…everyone would love to have elimination, but it’s just not realistic. And I think the Prime Minister said the same thing. Elimination is just not a viable option. You know, very rarely do corner solutions give you the right answer in public policy.
And I think the problem is that those who argued for elimination, and there are many that still do, have the wrong counterfactual in mind. They assume that the alternative is to do absolutely nothing. And they also assume that the true infection fatality rate is 1%. Which is what we originally thought it was all the way back in late January and early February.
So the argument goes something like, well, we need elimination to save 150 to 200,000 or 250,000 lives. We need stage four. We need to reseal our borders. Otherwise, you know, this human tragedy occurs. But I think that’s wrong because we’ve learned a lot more about the virus since January…
…So you asked me, What does suppression looks like? Suppression looks local. It’s that principle of subsidiarity. You’re responding locally. You’re investing your resources in tracking and tracing and quarantine. If there’s an outbreak, you jump on it. It’s reactive. It’s not preemptive. Because the cost is so high to stay in that siege mentality, that preemptive place, which is the elimination strategy.
Listen to the conversation for more great insights from Joe.
Also, check out Ergas’s interview with Menzies’s Nick Cater last night:
All of which highlights our incompetence in not going for elimination and then being serious about keeping it eliminated – for instance by ensuring that people not have sex with those whose quarantine they’re supervising!
Yes, what a debacle. Let’s hope you don’t end up in Stage 4 lock down.
You can’t just suppress a highly transmissible and lethal virus like Covid 19 – it will just break out again, again and again. It operates 24/7, unlike people. Elimination within country is Australia’s best option with secure quarantine at international borders. Most states other than Vic and NSW have achieved eradication. If foot and mouth virus got into cattle in Australia, no one would accept just suppression, they would insist on eradication. It should be no different for Covid 19 in people.
Thanks for the comment, Paul. Yes, it’s looking like it will break out again and again, as we’re discovering in Victoria. The costs of eradication are looking very high, though. I’m guessing you think Sweden has adopted the wrong approach?