My alternative motion presented at the Ordinary Council Meeting of the 19th January 2022 was not successful. It was a bridge too far for most Councillors on this issue. We need to hear all voices in our community without fear nor favour. I took an oath of office to represent all the people in Fremantle. This was my motivation for moving the alternative motion.
My reasons for supporting the alternative motion are presented in this statement. Due to the lengthy narrative, and the constraints of time in the chamber, I provided a shorter version last week. I took the time to research government data and ABS statistics, as well as listening to many smart, educated and qualified medical professionals. Especially the local frontline doctors who would prefer to use all the medical tools at their disposal to treat their patients, rather than the one size fits all, including mandates.
I am an optimist and someone who understands that a tough problem has many solutions. We can get the best solutions when government is transparent, inclusive, diverse and measured when implementing solutions that impact on individual liberties and freedoms. Omicron and the current data have changed my mind.
The Fear of fatality from Covid-19
It has been two years now since Covid-19 first appeared in Wuhan China, with those horrifying reports of people collapsing in the streets and people being welded into their building in fear of spreading the virus.
Just as quickly the disease spread across the globe and has forever altered our lives. It quickly spread to Italy and in the early stages of the pandemic where the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) in Italy was up to 10% (a CRF of 10% simply means that for every ten infections, one of those infected-on average would die as a result of their illness). Italy has a lot of clothing factories and Chinese workers, so the infection was rapidly transferred between China and Italy.
In August 2021 in Australia, there were 724 deaths that occurred and registered with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) by 30 September that had Covid-19 as a term on the death certificate.
They are broken down by age group in the above graph for an overall CFR for Australia for COVID-19 as at 31 August, 2021 was 2.7%.
The majority of deaths occurred in the elderly age group from 80-90 plus and decreasing for the 70-79 year old. For the 0-59 age group the death rate is low.
What has happened in Western Australia until now?
In our state, Fortress WA has worked until now. There are 9 deaths by Covid-19 in Western Australia since the start of the pandemic two years ago. So Premier Mark McGowan has done a good job in keeping us safe from Covid-19 at a time when so much was unknown.
Furthermore, the vaccination campaign has been an astonishing success in terms of the numbers. Currently in WA 87.9% are doubly vaccinated above 16 years of age. In Australia the vaccination rate is 92.6%. We achieved these rates primarily by consent and encouragement from sound scientific and medical advice.
Was there a benefit for the vaccinated?
The role of vaccines is not to stop the infection directly, but to give the body a heads up on what the virus looks like prior to an infection. In this way, when vaccines work memory B-cells (which make neutralizing antibodies) and T cells (to lyse viral infected cells) spring into action when they see the virus to crush an infection.
Therefore, when effective vaccines came along, most of those who were vaccinated developed only mild flu-like symptoms or no symptoms at all while those who were unvaccinated bore the brunt of the illness.
Those who ended up in hospital and especially in the ICU were largely unvaccinated. Nothing is without risk, for the Astra Zeneca vaccine it was an increased clotting risk whereas for the Pfizer vaccine there are reports of increased myocarditis rates especially in the younger population. At the time the data indicated that the benefits outweighed the risks, and this benefit was most pronounced for the most at risk groups – the elderly.
The virus is changing.
The Covid-19 virus is a moving entity. It replicates and mutates continuously within its host without proofreading mechanisms. In many cases this results in a virus that just does not work, though occasionally it results in a change or changes that for whatever reason are more transmissible that previous variants. This happened with the Delta and Omicron variants. These variants are more transmissible than the ancestral strain that came out of China. Transmissibility is measured by the R0 (Reproduction number). This number estimates the average number of secondary cases of an infectious disease arising from a typical case in a totally susceptible population.
For Covid -19 and its variants, the estimates of transmissibility are highlighted in the diagram below: (https://www.nationthailand.com/in-focus/40010798)
Omicron with an R0 8-15 is now the second most contagious disease in the world to Measles R0 18. Omicron is the super spreader on the east coast and across the globe. Omicron has breached the borders of Fortress WA.
We are going to experience a super spreader event within weeks whether the borders come down or not, whether the masks are here or not, whether vaccine mandates are here or not. We put up a barrier against the Covid-19 via the vaccine and nature has worked its way around by giving us Omicron.
All our efforts up till now will not stop this event. It is now clear that break through infections is the norm. According to a report from the Danish Ministry of Health, nearly 90% of individuals infected with the Omicron coronavirus variant are “fully vaccinated,” or have also had a “booster” injection.
The Case Numbers Rise while the Case Fatality Rate has plummeted as demonstrated in the Bar Chart below.
This bar chart shows the newly confirmed COVID-19 cases by notification and received date. The line graph shows the cumulative number of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases by notification received date. The horizontal axis shows the date of notification to state and territory health departments. The vertical axis on the left shows the number of new COVID-19 cases, represented by the bars. The vertical axis on the right shows the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases, represented by the line.
The good news in that this tidal wave of infections across the Australian eastern seaboard and across the globe is that the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) has plummeted.
Remember, in Feb 2020 CFR in Italy was up to 10%. In August 2021 in Australia the CFR was 2.7%, and on the 16 January 2022 the daily cases for Australia was 85,730 infected with total deaths of – 40, giving the CFR of 0.05%.
These deaths, although very tragic are weighted to the more elderly age group from 80-90 plus and decreasing for the 70–79-year-olds. There is risk to younger people, but it is now almost vanishingly low.
Risk Method Calculation
This risk can be estimated for males and females 0-59 year olds by dividing the current overall daily CFR by the relative risk reduction for this group from the earlier data.
Estimated CFR for females 0-59 years = 0.05% / 67.5 = 0.00074%
Estimated CFR for males 0-59 years 0.05% / 27 = 0.00185%
These numbers are low and as a comparison the female figure CFR is 6.5 times lower than the suicide rate for females in Australia as calculated from the 2020 ABS data.
Key points regarding Omicron
It does not matter if you are vaccinated or not because Omicron is an escaped variant and will inflect both the vaccinated and unvaccinated.
The degree to which any protection that the vaccines may provide against Omicron is based on emerging and mathematical modelling data and the timing of the vaccination.
Most importantly our current vaccination approach, whether it is voluntary or mandated, will not prevent most of the population getting Omicron as there is a large percentage of break-through infections (see information on Denmark above and https://www.health.gov.au/news/atagi-statement-on-the-omicron-variant-and-the-timing-of-covid-19-booster-vaccination).
The time of othering or marginalising the unvaccinated has past. We are all in this together and we are all going to probably pass Omicron on to someone else.
But we are not going to die in pandemic numbers as predicted early in the COVID pandemic. The current data does not support the earlier predictions. The data supports a bad flu season. The hospitals are going to suffer but we will get through this.
Omicron is here, it will continue to be here for a long time just like Influenza and the Measles and we will deal with it.
A tradition of volunteering
We have demonstrated throughout our history that we do push back when government gets in the way. The Rum Rebellion of 1808 was a push back against military rule, the Eureka Stockade in 1854 was a push back against unjust mining licences, the Shearer strikes of the 1890s for better conditions. The people rejected conscription attempts during World War 1 twice. We said hell no to our sons and daughters being sent to the killing fields of France.
And yet a generation of young men and women went to war, our ANZAC were volunteers. They made the ultimate sacrifice for us all. When the choice is ours, we soar like eagles, leaving no one behind.
We, the people, have a social contract with the government. We give up individual freedoms for the greater good of society and in return we receive good governance for the people. It is a carefully balanced relationship. The government must ask for permission when they want to enter my body, my bedroom or my religious beliefs. The cure must never be worse than the disease.
Punishment out of proportion
Under the State Emergency orders fines for noncompliance apply. Individuals face a $20,000 fine and they increase to $100,000 for employers. How did we get here? How can someone lose their livelihood, their profession, their public realm paid by their taxpayer dollars and their good name without a challenge.
Vaccinations like any other medical procedure is primarily for the benefit of the individual’s health.
If the unvaccinated posed a risk to the vaccinated, that time is long past when all of us are likely to be infected. The punishment is out of proportion.
How did we get here? Given the data outlined above, is the Government’s mandated one size fits all approach even legally defensible? The US Supreme Court struck down last week Biden’s vaccine mandates for private employers. Is it time for a court challenge in WA?
My message to Premier Mark McGowan
Your leadership got it right in the beginning. Fortress WA has worked, and I am grateful because the early days were scary and there was limited real live data for guidance. However, Omicron has changed the narrative. What we believed would work in the fight against the virus during 2020-21 is now moot.
Omicron has made mandates obsolete.
It is OK to step down and reassess. We have your back. We have a unique opportunity in WA to alter our strategy to this pandemic and change course.
Please scrap the mandates and work with all of us by providing up-to-date information and data so that our doctors can guide their patients on the risks and benefits of the Covid-19 vaccines and boosters to make the best decision for themselves.
Let us celebrate Australia Day without mandates and declare that “we are one and we are free”.
Our society will be better for it. Our economy will be better for it. The sooner we embrace all Australians the more humanity we will extend to each other.
Yoda got it right.
Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering." "The brave person is not the one who does not feel afraid, but the one who conquers that fear."