A very cunning plan not working elsewhere

Scott Morrison has a plan – as he keeps telling us. And the plan means that after Australia reaches 70% we can start to get on with our lives and live with the virus.

Now anybody would be entitled to think that a Morrison plan is more likely to be a sound bite than an actual plan but in this case you can subject his plan, if it is actually a plan, to a real world comparator – the United Kingdom – to see how realistic it is now the Delta strain is with us.

And doing that reminds us of Helmuth von Moltke’s comment that no plan survives contact with the enemy.

But first there needs to be some adjustments to get a fair statistical analysis. The UK has a population of 68 million and we have one of about 26 million. Starting from that we can say that either Britain’s population is a bit more than two and half times ours or ours is around 40% of theirs.

As of 21 August 29.6% of Australia’s eligible population was fully vaccinated. The comparable number at that date for the UK was 87.7%.  In absolute terms that’s 41.6 million in the UK and 6.1 million here.

Our cumulative number of cases is 44,028 (23 August) with 981 deaths. The total UK pandemic figures are too large to bother with here but the total of cases in the past seven days is 227,391 with a current daily rate of 32,253. Deaths in the past seven days total 687 with the current daily average 49 deaths.

On Monday this week Australia had 909 new cases and had had 44,922 active cases and 981 deaths since the pandemic started.

Correcting for population that means the UK’s daily 32,000 cases would be roughly equivalent to 13,000 in an Australia where the population of the two major States currently has 900. The deaths comparison results in dramatically different outcomes.

OK the population is different; population densities are different; much of our population is in lockdown; and the Brits are partying like tomorrow will never come.

But at some stage – if the Morrison Government plan is actually a plan – we should hit the 80% mark towards the end of the year or early next year with the 70% mark perhaps sooner. When we will get to an 87.7% mark is another matter altogether.

So when we hit the marks, if Delta is still around or some other new variant has emerged and Australians are free to roam and get on with our lives, it is plausible that we will be facing about 13,000 daily cases and about 20 deaths daily if the UK experience is replicated here.

Speculative? Certainly – but perhaps not as speculative as Morrison’s claims that we will be able to get on with our lives. And certainly not speculative when we look at the situation in Israel.

If there has been any gold standard vaccination record it’s there. 70% of those aged over 16 are vaccinated yet 60% of current hospitalisation cases are people who are fully vaccinated.

Moreover, as reported by The New Daily (24 August), modelling by a team from Australian National University, University of Western Australia and University of Melbourne suggests the figures Morrison is depending on could be too low.

“We found substantial morbidity and mortality is likely to occur if the Australian government sticks to the national plan,” ANU economist, Professor Quentin Grafton said.

The team was led by UWA epidemiologist Dr Zoë Hyde and Melbourne economist Professor Tom Kompas, and suggested there could be 6.9 million COVID cases if Australia opened up after only vaccinating 70 per cent of those aged over 16.

They also claimed that benchmark could see 154,000 hospitalisations and 29,000 deaths.

All in all some back of the envelope comparisons with the UK look more and more robust.

They also suggest Morrison’s promise about beefing up hospital resources better not be like his usual promises – hollow rhetoric not followed by tangible action.