Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak

This report contains the information that I consider most pertinent to following the progression of the coronavirus outbreak. Information is not country-specific as this is a challenge for the whole of humanity.

As early on the progression of the outbreak in Japan was of significant interest to give an early indication of how the virus may behave in developed countries, I was providing detailed coverage for Japan, but have ceased to update the page as global developments focused attentions elsewhere.

I have no unique sources. All of this information is garnered from the internet from genuine governmental or supra-governmental sources, or from media reports (where stated).

As we sift through the implications for us and our families, please always keep a compassionate and thankful place in your heart to those on the ground in the outbreak epicentre and other responders who have their own dreams and aspirations in life. That includes my friend Dr Shi Zhengli who leads the virology research team that identified the virus and continues to work with dedication and diligence for all of our benefit.

You can learn a little more about Zhengli and how I know her in my post “Social Cohesion: The Best Vaccine Against Crises“.

I will not go through the medical or epidemiological background to the outbreak as it is readily available on the WHO website and elsewhere. Instead my aim is to provide a way to read between the lines and help the reader to understand how things are heading.

Before that I need to be clear that fools that are drawing comparisons to influenza mortality numbers and rates, to talk down the threats of this outbreak, should ask themselves whether they would like to contract this virus when there is likely at least a 2,000% greater chance of dying from it than with a severe flu (the difference between a mortality rate of 0.1% and 2%). For high risk categories of patients, the increased risk of death is greater. The actual transmissibility and mortality rates for this coronavirus outbreak really will not be understood for quite a while. But keep this in mind – if the same number of Americans that caught the flu this season experienced a mortality rate of 2%, then that would amount to 1.8 million American mortalities alone. Anybody seeking to downplay this situation should be ignored.

Flu pandemics including case fatality rates from Wikipedia

If anyone wants to understand why many seek to play down risks at these times, please see my post “Forget Trickle Down Economics: It has always been vacuum up to the elites“.

In the daily update I included my up to date “optimism scale”. This is a scale that can move daily depending on latest developments. Extreme pessimism of 1 would entail confirmation that the virulence of the virus is such that infections result in a mortality rate of 1% or greater (10x the virulence of severe flu) even under optimal conditions, continued indications of very high transmissibility (a reasonable proportion of infected individuals infect several people), and a lack of effective treatment and/or prevention (vaccination). An increase in optimism would necessitate clear evidence that outbreaks outside of China were being contained, evidence supportive of a virulence attenuation resulting in a mortality rate of below 1%, or strong indications of successful therapeutic treatments that can be administered widely and rapidly.

These following resources are also available:

  • My open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison imploring him to prioritise benefits to society over economic consequences and “throw the kitchen sink” at risk mitigation;
  • My recommendations to help mitigate against the possibility of becoming infected by the coronavirus; and
  • The animated video of the spread of COVID-19 from the moment it “jumped species” at a live animal market in Wuhan to becoming a global pandemic (which I did in collaboration with my 11 year old son, an animation guru).

Please support my campaign for an inclusive and united humanity by signing my petition.

Je suis Chinois

I am for a united humanity!

Are you?

WHO recommendations for older adults and people with pre-existing conditions

My family has donated to the #COVID19Fund to support @WHO’s response efforts to the global #COVID19 pandemic. Join us to help combat this growing global threat to people’s health and well-being: www.covid19responsefund.org

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

30 June

WHO Situation Report 161 for 29 June (released 30 June Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 10,021,401 confirmed cases (178,328 new), 499,913 deaths (4,153 new)

From my earliest updates I understood that these numbers would escalate exponentially, so that when I was writing single digit numbers I knew very soon it would be double digit numbers, then in the thousands, then hundreds of thousands, and then millions. Knowing and understanding does not translate to being emotionally prepared, and I cannot begin to express how sad I feel every time I write these huge numbers, or when I look back at my report of 11 February and see that there was only 1 death outside of China.

When I began writing these updates it was a very deliberate decision to leave the year off of the date. I knew this was never going to be limited to a 2020 event. I simply had no intention of writing updates beyond the first year of the pandemic because I knew it would be too depressing. My next post will detail my concern for how I believe the pandemic will play out beyond 2020, and what will be the implications for our society.

Graphs from Johns Hopkins University Dashboard. Briefly, as discussed in the previous update, South American countries are on a rapid trajectory, and the lack of leadership in the US is showing up in the top graph with a now clear upward inflection which will get worse and be reflected in the lower graph.

Since my previous update the new outbreak in Beijing which was associated with the finding of the novel coronavirus on cutting boards used for imported salmon in a wholesale food and seafood market has led to China enacting new requirements on imports of processed meats and some other goods. All shipments must be accompanied by certification attesting to freedom from contamination by the novel coronavirus.

I have added to my Youtube videos on COVID-19 food safety in processed meat with several videos on handling specific processed meat in various circumstances, along with a summary video discussing the risks.

Now as I have stated on that video, and elsewhere, I agree that there is ample opportunity for China to use this issue as a technical barrier to trade, firstly because many countries including Australia do that, and because of the fluid nature of geopolitics surrounding China at present. I would suggest that including soy beans (which are primarily used to feed to pigs) in the list of products requiring attestation of freedom from novel coronavirus contamination may hint at this potential. Then again, one possibility that I have not canvassed is the potential for pigs to actually be infected by the virus, and that as a potential reason for why slaughterhouses and processers to be especially impacted, thus the need to be extra careful with the feedstock given to livestock. (I do not know how much research attention has been given to assessing pigs as potential hosts – experimental transmission experiments would need to be carried out in the highest level biosecurity facilities capable of large animal trials, and they are as rare as hens teeth, and this is probably not a high priority for research.) Also, I have inspected seafood processors while working for Biosecurity Australia, though never a salmon processor, and understand these to be highly mechanised and thus likely lower risk due to lesser contact with humans and lower probability of contamination.

Nonetheless, I consider it a favour to the world to highlight the risk of the spread of this pathogen with especially processed meat, and for me the benefits of that outweigh any potential for political interference.

I have been conducting some research on what potential risks all of this pose to Australia in terms of establishing new clusters of infection with imported processed meat. Uncooked meat obviously presents the greatest risk as the novel coronavirus and other similar viruses can survive refrigeration and freezing for prolonged periods, but is quickly inactivated at cooking temperatures.

These are the current biosecurity policies for the importation into Australia of the major forms of uncooked meat for human consumption:

  • Salmon is permitted entry from Canada, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, UK and US processed in those same countries plus Germany, Philippines, Poland, Sweden and Thailand.
  • Pork is permitted entry from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, UK and US if kept under biosecurity/quarantine control until processed at an approved premise.
  • Beef is permitted entry only from Japan and Vanuatu.
  • Uncooked chicken is not permitted entry from any country other than New Zealand and presently it is not allowed from there either.

So it is really only salmon and pork that is imported into Australia in uncooked form from countries that are experiencing severe COVID-19 outbreaks. As I stated above, based on my (albeit limited) experience in inspecting seafood processing facilities I believe that processed seafood represents a lower risk of contamination and thus transmission of the novel coronavirus than larger animals which generally use less mechanisation. On the other hand, the pathway for exposure is direct as people will take the frozen fish home and prepare it for consumption.

The import conditions for uncooked pork state that it must go straight into a quarantine approved premise for further processing. While this does not involve a pathway into Australian homes, obviously the sheer amount of uncooked meat that workers in these premises may come into contact with will increase the risk of transmission to these Australia workers. The list of premises permitted to process imported pork meat is on the agriculture department website, although the list may not be complete as inclusion on the published list is at the discretion of the business. The majority of businesses on the list are in Victoria. I would personally be interested to know whether there are any additional risk management procedures implemented at these facilities, whether they have imported uncooked meat over recent months from impacted overseas processing facilities (it is a condition of import that the premise and date of processing accompany the product on entry to the country), whether workers are undergoing additional testing for the virus (not just general symptoms), and whether workers at any of these facilities have been found positive for the virus.

Moreover, given investigations into the Cedar Meats cluster unearthed the practice of contract workers moving between different processing facilities, something that has been highlighted as a risk for spreading the pathogen, I would suggest that extraordinary care needs to be taken to ensure that workers at these facilities processing imported meat do not contract and spread the novel coronavirus.

15 June

WHO Situation Report 146 for 14 June (released 15 June Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 6,690,708 confirmed cases (137,526 new), 427,630 deaths (4,281 new)

Graphs from Johns Hopkins University Dashboard.

The US President shows no inclination to lead on much else other than creating division in society. Consequently the US with the UK remain the most severely impacted nations for which reasonable data collection and testing exists – i.e. amongst all but the least developed nations – although the pandemic is now out of control in South America. The latest report on the US by the Imperial College London, written before the BlackLivesMatter rallies began, showed that the US was on course for a serious escalation in the damage to its people (especially its underprivileged minorities, and it is my emphasis below):

We predict that increased mobility following relaxation of social distancing will lead to resurgence of transmission, keeping all else constant. We predict that deaths over the next two-month period could exceed current cumulative deaths by greater than two-fold, if the relationship between mobility and transmission remains unchanged. Our results suggest that factors modulating transmission such as rapid testing, contact tracing and behavioural precautions are crucial to offset the rise of transmission associated with loosening of social distancing.

Overall, we show that while all US states have substantially reduced their reproduction numbers, we find no evidence that any state is approaching herd immunity or that its epidemic is close to over.

My work on COVID-19 since last update has concentrated on developing a series of videos on food safety particularly with reference to processed meat from plants where large numbers of infected workers have the potential to contaminate the meat prior to packing. Last week I released a short form video and today I released a more detailed video. Although still working on the editing of the latter, the emerging news at the weekend out of China of a new cluster of COVID-19 at a wholesale food market and the finding of virus-contaminated cutting boards used for salmon, and then the removal of salmon from supermarket shelves, obviously prompted me to expedite the release.

I did receive a response from a federal minister to my most recent letter, but I shall not share it here because it says nothing of real substance.

28 May

WHO Situation Report 128 for 27 May (released 28 May Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 5,488,825 confirmed cases (83,465 new), 349,095 deaths (5,581 new)

As I said on 8 May, the trajectory of Cases/100K population suggests that before long the US will be in the worst situation and that has certainly played out over the intervening 20 days. I repeat the remainder verbatim – Whether that is reflected later in the Deaths/100K population will be determined by the outcome of those infections and equivalence in collation of numbers of deaths. I have seen nothing to suggest that the US has been any better than any other developed country at treating COVID-19 cases, but there are clear differences between nations in collation of mortality data. Graphs from Johns Hopkins University Dashboard.

Since my last update I have released two major COVID-19-related reports in “Toxic Masculinity and Political Footballs” and “Your Life: Something The Elites Have Always Been Prepared To Sacrifice For Their Ends

As I write I feel as concerned for the world as I did in February – no, worse, because then I put the inactions of the major English-speaking countries down to ignorance. Now it is clear that it is the ills of how capitalism has been allowed to develop in our countries. (Sadly, the problems of what would occur in the developing world were obvious due to inaction by the developed world over decades.)

A friend forwarded a post on Facebook that said “when a society regrets the economic loss more than the loss of life, it doesn’t need a virus, it is already sick”, and that sums up well my own feelings about the situation.

Mostly I am disappointed in myself, in my inability to be persuasive with others to ultimately have an influence on decision makers. As at writing I still have not received any reply whatsoever to my letters to decision makers.

I deeply disagree with the opening up of Australia at this point in time – heading into winter, on the verge of eliminating the virus within Australia, and with a large proportion of the community in agreement with the need for the stringent measures.

Here is as plain a statement as can be made – what New Zealand and Australia have clearly shown is that deaths from COVID-19 from this point on in people in Australia who do not travel overseas were preventable. There is a great deal of evidence now of the severe impacts of this disease on human populations, and developments since I wrote “COVID-19 Elephants In The Room” make it clear that it is indeed prudent to always bear in mind that we do not yet understand the full impacts on humanity.

To create momentum towards opening up, Morrison played a petty political game of pitting State Governments against each other over sensitive issues around schooling and borders.

If we had maintained our stringent measures in full for another 8-10 weeks we were highly likely to have succeeded in eliminating the virus from Australia, through diligent contact tracing and testing of the few cases that arose in that time, combined with very stringent international border measures. If the counter-argument, that decision-makers dare not utter publicly, was that they suspected there was already too much virus circulating in the community to feasibly be successful at elimination, then why would they lessen the measures just as we head into what all agree is the most critical season for managing the disease?

The economic and social benefits of elimination allowing the entire domestic economy and general society to open back up are so obvious and powerful that it is hard to fathom the decision to not continue on towards it. It makes no sense… except, of course, if my short post entitled “What Really Scares The Global Elite” is spot on.

More than ever I believe that the Elites fear “The Great Reset” and what it will do to their grip on wealth and power.

Their political puppets treated their societies like addicts – afraid that they would go cold turkey on their addictions to mindless consumerism and all that entails, like choosing aspiration for social standing over contributions to society through family and community, they were eager to give little tastes along the way to maintain those habits. Consequently, we will be doomed to repeated cycles of opening up which permits the virus to spread, and then we will (though what has occurred in the US suggests that the more appropriate word is “may”) go through periods of lockdown to temporarily slow the rate of spread.

What is already abundantly clear to me is that in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia the elected decision makers did not choose “People Before Money“.

To conclude, as my post “COVID-19 And Food Safety In Processed Meat” showed, this is an emergent issue, but true to form, the decision makers seem more concerned with the economic impacts of closures rather than the public safety issues. So I am currently working on a video – or series of videos – to get to the heart of the risk factors. I will post them here, on YouTube and on Facebook, so keep an eye out.

Stay safe. I am for a united humanity!

8 May

WHO Situation Report 108 for 7 May (released 8 May Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 3,672,238 confirmed cases (83,465 new), 254,045 deaths (6,539 new)

The trajectory of Cases/100K population suggests that before long the US will be in the worst situation. Whether that is reflected later in the Deaths/100K population will be determined by the outcome of those infections and equivalence in collation of numbers of deaths. I have seen nothing to suggest that the US has been any better than any other developed country at treating COVID-19 cases, but there are clear differences between nations in collation of mortality data. Graphs from Johns Hopkins University Dashboard.

Sorry for the large gap in updating, however I have been busy writing a second letter to PM Morrison and other Ministers about growing concerns of COVID-19 infections in meat processing plants (actually before news broke of the cluster at Cedar Meats in Melbourne), writing a post on COVID-19 and Food Safety in support of that letter, continuing to stand by a friend in linking to comments on the origin of COVID-19 made on Bloomberg Television by Australia’s foremost scientist in Peter Dogherty (an immunologist and Nobel Laureate), writing to my State Premier on my concerns of opening up schools and generally before we get into mid-winter, continuing to draft my next post which I can not to decide whether to entitle (positively) “Humanity’s Luminous Future” or “Your Life: Something the Elites Have Always Been Prepared to Sacrifice For Their Ends”, reading a lot including an excellent and alarming article linking increased deaths from the 1918 flu pandemic in regions of Germany with increased support for Nazism, and trying to write constructive comments mainly at The Conversation, one of which is below, which is a high-level publication portal given that only academics can publish but I have to say that the comments, open to everyone, below this article linking another pandemic to increased xenophobic were truly alarming… and sad… thankfully some were tag for moderation.

Surely this and the previous well-informed/sourced comments just go to demonstrate for any objective person how foolhardy it would be to do anything other than try to ensure that as few people in our population are infected while hoping for a vaccine… Some say we need to open up because we cannot bear the economic cost, but we still have little idea of the full human cost and what we do know already is that it is devastating.

Comment by Brett Edgerton at The Conversation on article “We may well be able to eliminate coronavirus, but we’ll probably never eradicate it. Here’s the difference

April 28

WHO Situation Report 98 for 27 April (released 28 April Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 2,878,196 confirmed cases (85,530 new), 198,668 deaths (4,982 new)

Make no mistake: we have a long way to go. This virus will be with us for a long time… Most countries are still in the early stages of their epidemics. And some that were affected early in the pandemic are now starting to see a resurgence in cases… although numbers are low, we see worrying upward trends in Africa, Central and South America, and eastern Europe

Dr Tedros, Director-General, WHO

Belgium, a country of 11 million people, continues in these comparisons to be hardest hit. However, on deeper examination it appears that their leaders made the decision to be extremely transparent in their reporting and, whereas many countries are not including people who died without being tested for COVID-19, like many residents of nursing homes, Belgium is including these in their data. Some in Belgium are uneasy with this because they fear a persistent negative perception towards the country.

As I stated in my earliest writing, decision-makers in all countries will consider politics as a part of their decision making on how they report these data. When politicians lead with transparency and honesty they should be acknowledged and applauded.

Well done Belgium!

Some reports say that one-half of recorded deaths in Belgium were in nursing homes so that gives an indication on just how much other countries may be understating their data when very few of those cases are included in their numbers. There is a definite possibility that the Belgian data might even overstate the number of deaths due to COVID-19 because of this position, but it is likely to be far closer to the truth than those countries not reporting those who were not tested for the disease.

Finally, I am working on two new important posts which I hope to release in the next few days so keep an eye out for these by subscribing to my posts. Here is a teaser:

One of these entirely contradictory statements is correct, which one is it?

  • Freezing is a common method to kill and inactivate viruses, and typically the faster and deeper the freeze the more effective the treatment. OR
  • Freezing is a common method to store and maintain infectivity of viruses, and typically the faster and deeper the freeze the more effective the treatment.

April 21

WHO Situation Report 91 for 20 April (released 21 April Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 2,314,621 confirmed cases (72,846 new), 157,847 deaths (5,369 new)

Trust us. The worst is yet ahead of us… Let’s prevent this tragedy. It’s a virus that many people still don’t understand.

Dr Tedros, Director-General of the WHO

Today I have reached some decisions on how I am going to move forward, 1) with this update and 2) in my market positioning.

I am going to continue to update this page only periodically as I described on April 15 but when I do, along with the data from WHO situation report released that day, I will include these two graphs which I consider the most pertinent representation of the Johns Hopkins data (i.e. relative to population size). It reveals just how serious has been the pandemic in Spain, and surprising to me, for I had not gathered it from the press coverage, Belgium is really suffering. The UK shows similarities to France and the Netherlands. And the US has significant upward late momentum in cases showing just how foolish is the discussion of lifting social distancing measures.

As I wrote also on 15 April I had positioned aggressively tactically to profit should stockmarkets retrace back down towards their previous lows, and I took some losses unwinding those positions waiting for a better entry point. Yesterday I re-initiated that same trade – though this time with only 40% of the trade in a leveraged position, now 60% in a inversely proportional 1:1 relationship with equity markets. I am content to leave this positioning remain in place because there are no circumstances in which I would wish to take broad equity market exposure. This bearish positioning represents 50% of my total long term portfolio. Around 15% remains in 4 health care stocks which have been appreciating in the pandemic, 10% in gold hedged to Euro, less than 10% in cash for operations, and the remainder in Australian and global equities with my 2 preferred fund managers. When I trade out of my bearish equity market positions I intend to buy back into gold positions and potentially equity markets if valuations have fallen appreciably from current levels. For interest, on my short term portfolio in March (before the trough) I trimmed 2/3 of my original short portfolio returning 3,000% of the initial total cost of the full portfolio.

April 15

WHO Situation Report 85 for 14 April (released 15 April Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 1,844,863 confirmed cases (71,779 new), 117,021 deaths (5,369 new)

Apologies for dropping off on this over Easter. I have to admit that I am questioning the value of doing a daily update especially with the data from WHO situation report which significantly lags the data from the Johns Hopkins Hospital which is now widely reported. Equally I do not think it adds much value me recording here what are those numbers when I happen to look at them to write a report each day as I have long provided the link and anybody interested can look for themselves.

What I have decided to do is periodically write an update as and when I have something to say about the progression of the pandemic, or the social or political situation around it, or the economic or investment implications, but when that is not sufficient to fill out a specific blog post.

So please do continue to return to see my now irregular updates.

Today I need to fess up to being caught out by Jerome Powell. In my post “Repeat After Me, This is NOT SARS: COVID-19 is Much Worse” I discussed my views on investing through the pandemic and stated that Central Bank and other co-ordination to support market pricing would complicate shorting strategies and general positioning for sharply downward moving prices. I have to admit to being surprised by just how far the initial leg down in stockmarkets went, and to having been a little premature in taking profits on my outright short positions in my short term portfolio (of course timing is always the difficulty regardless of whether talking about short or long positions).

In the same post I said that I understood why Central Bankers would respond and in unprecedented ways. But that does not mean that I felt it right that market signalling should get even further out of sync with fundamentals than had occurred since the GFC, especially in the context of the extreme challenges we face. In other words, it is reasonable that these actions smooth movements to minimise panic and shock to already anxious societies, but not appropriate to keep prices at prices devoid of reality and completely disconnected with fundamentals.

Last week I felt that the buying in stock markets was getting carried away and well out of context with the situation as I had discussed below in my April 7 update. Noting this asymmetry I positioned in my long term portfolio, mainly because option pricing for my short term remains elevated, for an imminent draw back – especially with earnings season beginning – which I felt likely would result in a retest of the mid-March lows.

I suspect that Jay Powell, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, sensed the same and added additional timely support which has continued the bull run. I do not expect this continue for long but I needed to concede that the risk balance has altered in the short run and maintaining my slightly leveraged position would decrease the ultimate returns. Thus I sold and remain on the sidelines waiting for a better entry to the trade. Making things more difficult I used much of my gold positions to fund position, so only partially participating in the continued runup in gold prices has added to the pain.

At this stage it is worth saying that this is not how I prefer to invest. In fact, many people who I respect deeply will say this is not investing – it is speculating – and I agree with them. But those same people are either 1) tinkering on the edges themselves with this essentially momentum trading while justifying that it is about prices moving in and out of their estimates of intrinsic value; or 2) have been called out for being old fashioned and out-dated as value investors.

The reality is that Central Bankers continual support of markets have transformed them into something altogether different and their loss of value as capital allocation tools – Ben Graham’s “weighing machine” – has now been prolonged. In my own mind I equate current equity markets to those digitised phony horse races that gamblers sit around in the betting parlours and pubs gambling on. I have never been a gambler and have no interest in horses or any other form of gambling because I know I have no advantage over those setting the odds. And everybody knows that horse racing and other forms of organised “chance” have a long history of manipulation (all Australians of my age will remember the “Fine Cotton” affair where a much better horse was painted and swapped into a race – no joke!)

Current stockmarkets look a lot more like those digitised form of horse racing with Jay Powell, who likely gets on a whole letter better with Mr Trump than the deliberate manipulation of the perception of their relation infers, and other central bankers at the levers deciding on all of the parameters.

Contemporary stockmarkets are anything but free markets.

That does not mean, however, that the Central Bankers are omnipotent because the emotion of market participants is more powerful if it shifts suddenly, and this pandemic provides some confronting realities for humanity…

April 9

WHO Situation Report 79 for 8 April (released 9 April Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 1,353,361 confirmed cases (73,639 new), 79,235 deaths (4,904 new)

Today I want to talk about the erroneous use of the term “curve flattening” which is the term du jour. This is an epidemiological term which refers to the spread of a pathogen through a population. By population, it assumes a closed or near closed system, and being theoretical it refers to the total number of infections.

So what is the problem in applying that theory to contemporary human populations, and especially Australia through this pandemic?

There are two. Firstly we have not been a closed population as the Government has been at pains to state that new (detected) cases have been mostly from travellers, i.e. those coming from other populations. Now that that introduction of the virus has (finally) been effectively ended – by strict travel restrictions and strict quarantine – it is becoming evident that there has been community transmission within Australia, as I warned there would be in “Politics Vs Society” published 21 February, when there were only restrictions on those entering from China, where I said:

I am of the view that there may be hundreds of people infected by the coronavirus in Australia as of the time of writing, that being 21 February 2020. (Note I always state such opinions beyond the first few paragraphs of my writing because I know the superficial masses will have stopped reading paragraphs earlier.) To make myself accountable, I will say that I will be very surprised – and wrong – if there are no reports of people ill with coronavirus in Australia by 7 March. And I would expect that many who present as unwell with coronavirus throughout March have not been to China.

The second point is that we still have no idea of how many people in Australia are infected because the testing criteria are still too stringent. Thus we have no idea of the shape of the curve in the broad population. To be clear, an infected person, who has not travelled overseas and has not been in contact with a known infected, could only be detected if they are symptomatic and are an essential worker or live in an aged care facility, or are so ill that they have developed pneumonia. Now the morbidity rates of this disease, across populations, has stayed fairly consistent since the outbreak in Wuhan – 4 of 5 infected people experience only very mild disease (so even most essential workers who are eligible for testing would NOT be detected let alone the broader public), and around 3 of 4 of the remaining people experience illness but not the most severe symptoms (so infections in those eligible for testing would be detected but NOT in the broader public), while around only 1 in 20 of those who are infected will develop more severe disease leading to admission to intensive care units which would lead to detection irrespective of the other eligibility for testing criteria.

The authorities are making a very big assumption that there is limited community transmission beyond what has been found because an explosion in cases of otherwise unexplained pneumonia have not been appearing at hospitals, to this point in time, in contrast with what has occurred in Europe and the US.

As I explained in “COVID-19 Elephants in the Room“, with a pathogen so new to humanity and consequently so very little understood, it is a serious mistake to make assumptions and prudent policy would continually choose the cautious path and apply the precautionary principle.

Unfortunately, nations, and especially the Anglophone countries, are so incredibly quick to jump on anything remotely “positive” on the pandemic progression, and that is mostly because of the predilection of their “followers” (their anti-leaders) to choose money before people, rather than vice versa.

I am not going to speculate on what is an infinite range of possibilities about what could trigger a greater expression of disease amongst Australians infected over the next few months as Australia moves into the winter season, but it is much, much too early to be talking about an opening up of the Australian economy without first undergoing an enormous ramp up in testing to determine where we really sit in terms of the incidence and prevalence of infection in our population.

We are still in the very early stages of this pandemic. Even in Spain, where recent research suggests that their population has the highest proportion of people who have been infected by this coronavirus, less than 15% of the population have likely been infected. While these studies showed a significant saving in lives due to measures implemented throughout Europe, the report states:

Our estimates imply that populations in Europe are not close to herd immunity (approx. 50-75% [of populations infected with known rate of spread of virus]). Further [with the rate of spread due to measures implemented] dropping substantially, the rate of acquisition of herd immunity will slow substantially. This implies that the virus will be able to spread rapidly should interventions be lifted.

No matter how much our national “followers” want the pandemic to be over, no matter how much the business elites want to re-open, no matter how much people are tired of the social isolation, the simple reality is that continuing these reluctantly introduced and late measures is necessary to minimise deaths which have been shown to be patently preventable.

Moreover, these “followers” are suggesting that they have made the “hard decisions” yet they squibbed on making the really hard decisions – going it alone and enacting strict quarantine measures earlier than others. Instead they try to frame giving $Billions to business to put the “economy on life support” as heroic when historically they have framed their left-wing counterparts as irresponsible when they have done the same, frequently taunting that it is never difficult to spend money.

This continual flirtation with “opening up” economies shows that these “followers” have learnt nothing through February and March, and that they are continually making the same mistakes of underestimating the power of this natural disaster, the impacts it is and will continue to have on humanity, and the consequences that that has on the way they can PLAY their politics.

Moreover, it is cynical in the extreme, when humanity is psychologically weakened, to toy with emotions and suggest that the light at the end of the tunnel is nearer than was feared. Without promising news on an earlier than expected vaccine or treatment, or an intention and capacity to step-up testing enormously along with biosecurity measures for infected people, that light is just as far away as it always has been.

A far, far better strategy for humanity would be to begin a discussion which shows that people are the genuine focus of the future which coalesces around inclusion and sustainability.

In other words, show that that light at the end of the tunnel is bigger and brighter than it ever has been before!

April 8

WHO Situation Report 78 for 7 April (released 8 April Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 1,279,722 confirmed cases (68,766 new), 72,614 deaths (5,020 new)

From The Guardian Coronavirus Live Feed, 8 April 2020

No need to say any more today…

April 7

WHO Situation Report 77 for 6 April (released 7 April Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 1,210,956 confirmed cases (77,200 new), 67,594 deaths (4,810 new)

Today I will talk a little about the stockmarket which I would suggest has gone back to the level of dissonance that was on display in mid-February. While I am as pleased as anybody to see the human tragedy of the pandemic lessen somewhat based on the tapering in the trajectory of cases and thus deaths in Europe, this is a change that I would argue has little relevance to the stockmarket. What should matter most to the valuations of companies traded on the stockmarket is the impact on profits, and a reduction in cases has little relevance to when people will be in a position to emerge from social distancing strategies and begin to act in the economy in a relatively free manner. For that to occur, as I have said since 3 Feb, we await a vaccine delivered en masse and/or an effective treatment.

This bounce is nothing more than a strong bear market bounce, based on a superficially relevant developments which in reality is only mildly relevant to company valuations, which is typical of bear markets.

Moreover, given the nature of this event – the potential for strong shocks to human psychology which are fast moving and impossible to predict – for example, the British PM now being placed in intensive care with severe COVID-19 – I do not expect this bear market bounce to last very long at all.

Thus I consider this an opportunity to re-position for a recommencement of the previous conditions which I would describe as strong correlation between asset price including stocks and gold in a sharply downward trajectory. While it is not sufficient for me to update by position statement, I will disclose that I am seeking to take profits on my gold positions and medical/virology equity positions (which have continued to be supported in this bounce) and placing them into the strong bear ETF on a tactical basis, with the intention to buy back into my gold positions if and when the previous trend reasserts itself.

I am strongly supportive of gold in the medium term but am willing to trade these short term fluctuations that market irrationality is providing.

April 6

WHO Situation Report 76 for 5 April (released 6 April Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 1,133,758 confirmed cases (82,061 new), 62,784 deaths (5,798 new)

April 5

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 75 for 4 April (released 5 April Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 1,051,635 confirmed cases (79,332 new), 56,985 deaths (6,664 new)

The Imperial College of London has released some more excellent work on their modelling, this time estimating the number of infections and the impact of biosecurity measures on the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe.

The paper contained the following interesting passages or graphical data representations.

So their early modelling suggests that school closures may be the second-most significant biosecurity measure after full lockdown to contain the spread of the virus. I must be clear, though, that the authors do caution about ascribing too much certainty to these results for a number of reasons. Nonetheless, it should be clear that nearly every other country besides Australia – and specifically Australia’s PM Morrison – considers school closures an important measure in containing the pandemic. It will be interesting to see what the “medical advice” is when the various states of Australia are due to recommence scheduled school terms after their mid semester breaks. It is probably worth saying that it is to be hoped that humility prevails over hubris at the encouraging, but very early, indications of curve flattening.

It is also critical to point out what is said about Italy and Spain, the worst affected countries in Europe, where the estimated proportion of the population that has been infected thus far is still very, very much short of that proportion required for herd immunity to be sufficient to protect those that are yet to be infected. They, like everywhere else, have no other choice but to keep up the biosecurity measures while waiting for a vaccine and/or effective pharmaceutical treatment.

I bet PM Morrison is glad that he only uttered the term “herd immunity” on one or a few occasions, unlike his other Anglophone counterparts…

April 4

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 74 for 3 April (released 4 April Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 972,303 confirmed cases (75,853 new), 50,322 deaths (4,823 new)

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 201 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (1 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

When I wrote “The Great Reset” I was blissfully unaware that a number of other progressive thinkers were already publishing along these lines, which is great because we know that the rentiers of society will be well advanced in their own thinking along those lines, and given their powerful connections, will be well advanced in enacting their thoughts.

For weekend reading, while I work on my Magnum Opus, my solution to the Human Time Paradox, I provide the following articles to prime the reader to how we should be starting to think things through. As I have said in numerous places, I feel that this type of thinking – a dreaming of what is possible based on what humanity collectively wants – could be extremely liberating and a breath of positive fresh air through the challenges that COVID-19 presents.

I will say this, also – it is imperative that a way is found by progressives to take this movement beyond the typical progressive media and allow everyone a chance to buy in, because the cynical wearing-down of the conservatives will be trying to tamp down any outbreaks of optimism that we might garner for the prospect of a better world.

The Coronavirus Pandemic Will Forever Alter the World Order – Henry Kissinger – Wall Street Journal

Australia can be a better, fairer place after the coronavirus, if we’re willing to fight for it | Lenore Taylor | Opinion | The Guardian (Lenore includes links to some other good and relevant articles which are not listed below and should be read)

Our post-pandemic selves: why the virus is an opportunity to grow and develop | Life and style | The Guardian

It’s time to challenge everything, so what will we create from this savage lesson? | Heather Rose | Life and style | The Guardian

The Covid-19 crisis is a chance to do capitalism differently | Mariana Mazzucato | Opinion | The Guardian

‘A perfect storm’: US facing hunger crisis as demand for food banks soars | Environment | The Guardian

April 3

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 73 for 2 April (released 3 April Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 896,450 confirmed cases (72,839 new), 45,526 deaths (4,924 new)

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 200 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (0 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

The dashboard at Johns Hopkins Hospital has sadly ticked over to some large round numbers in recent hours – 50,000 deaths due to COVID-19 and then 1,000,000 confirmed cases.

There is no real improvement to mention, unfortunately. The isolation measures have slowed the rate of growth of cases in Europe, but it is still a wait for science to catch up situation while continuing to minimise loss of life with stringent isolation measures. The close community and family values should continue to help their communities to struggle through in the face of much pain. In the US the ramp up in numbers of cases is truly alarming, in increasing numbers of major cities, and it is difficult to believe that the growth in inequality of recent decades and weakened faith in Government is not going to lead to a very serious challenge for American society. Of course the situation will be even worse throughout the developing world, but given general life conditions are so much worse, the departure from their lived experience may be less marked. And let’s all send every piece of good will possible for those in refugee camps throughout the world where the misery will undoubtedly increase by orders of magnitude.

In the continuation of my tilt to be constructive on the way forward, as the reality of situation is now patent to all, I am currently working on a major essay that I began drafting even before I uploaded MacroEdgo. It is my solution to the Human Time Paradox that is in the heading of my homepage. I feel that there has never been a more apt time in recent history to start reflecting on these more spiritual aspects of life – in it’s purist sense, in other words not specifically relating to religion – than now given the challenges faced by humanity.

Stay safe and be optimistic in Humanity. This too shall pass.

April 2

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 72 for 1 April (released 2 April Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 823,626 confirmed cases (72,736 new), 40,598 deaths (4,193 new)

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 200 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (3 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

The three new areas reporting cases today are all in Africa. There are now very few countries, territories or regions where there have been no cases reported.

As this website has a strong focus on finance and investing, today I updated my positioning through the crisis thus far and what are my views on markets.

April 1

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 71 for 31 March (released 1 April Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 750,890 confirmed cases (57,610 new), 36,405 deaths (3,301 new)

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 197 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (0 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

Things are looking more and more challenging in the US with a strong trajectory on the graph comparing cases between different countries. Yes, the US has a larger population than the other developed countries on those graphs. But it also has a great deal of wealth inequality and thus variability in underlying health states and access to health care. As I said in my update of March 4:

My greatest concern is that all of the deficiencies of the US health system, that President Obama wanted to begin to address, are about to be laid bare. For all of the rhetoric about having the best health care in the world, the truth that that level of care is only accessible to the one percenters, while the average experience across American society is below that experienced in other comparable developed countries, is going to be revealed in a truly terrible manner I fear.

In Australia there is starting to emerge optimism that the curve is being flattened, somewhere between the truly awful situations in many European countries and increasingly in the US, and let’s say South Korea.

On the face of it – based on the available data – I firmly agree. The problem is that, given the way politics works and how our political “followship” has behaved through this summer and into this pandemic, there is so much pressure on them to save their political hides that I do not put a lot past them to buy more time for a miraculous turn around to appear. And as I said in previous posts, it is always possible to cherry pick or intentionally bias data to obfuscate or hide emerging trends or to help explain them away. For instance, the high number of positives last Friday was put down to a very large number of tests having been conducted. But they could easily turn around and tell the labs to give 50% of their staff a day off to rest, which would also reduce the number of tests done the following day and thus reduce the number of confirmed cases and the trajectory.

Having said that, the turn for the better has lasted for a few days which gives me some confidence that it might be real. I certainly hope it is real.

The thing is, however, that being not as bad as European countries or the US is preferable to being like them, for it means fewer deaths, but now there is almost no chance of eradication. The only way that eradication could have been achieved, as discussed by the New Zealand epidemiologist in the article I showed from The Guardian yesterday, was to introduce stringent biosecurity measures at the border earlier to prevent re-introductions and then internal measures to track down all cases. While this may be possible in NZ, it is not likely possible here.

Thus, the minute social distancing measures are eased in Australia, there will be the reignition of an upward trajectory in the spread of COVID-19.

Perhaps our moderate success at slowing the spread will allow “lockdown-free” days in the future, where social distancing measures are slightly loosened to allow people to get out and about for one day to lessen the psychological impact of isolation during winter, but an opening up of more of the domestic economy would not be possible without costing more lives from COVID-19 until effective treatments and/or vaccines are available.

March 31

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 70 for 30 March (released 31 March Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 693,224 confirmed cases (58,411 new), 33,106 deaths (3,215 new)

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 197 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (0 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

From The Guardian… What I had hoped for Australia… Well done New Zealand!

March 30

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 69 for 29 March (released 30 March Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 634,835 confirmed cases (63,159 new), 29,957 deaths (3,464 new)

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 197 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (1 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

I am currently putting the finishing touches on a major report that I have entitled “The Great Reset”. Please come back later today or, even better, subscribe to receive my posts immediately on publishing.

March 29

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 68 for 28 March (released 29 March Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 571,678 confirmed cases (62,514 new), 26,494 deaths (3,159 new)

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 196 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (0 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

Sad, sad, sad. As I discussed with my wife yesterday, it is difficult to keep spirits high when we understand that there is so much collective pain in the world at present. We both spoke of how we carry a sadness that is real and in the bottom of our stomachs, that can not be shaken even if we manage to distract ourselves for a brief while. Then we stop to consider that in the developing world there is always a lot of pain around basic health.

We are a close family, so we have always enjoyed each others’ company, but we are needing to be extra inventive. If we manage to keep ourselves safe, this may turn out to be a cherished time, inspite of all of the hurt in the world, as we never would have gotten to spend so much time together before our eldest mid-teen son goes out into the world. Yesterday for the first time in a very long time we all played cricket. These are the things that we will seek to hold onto.

As an Australian I was shocked to look at the table in the latest WHO condition report which revealed a greater than 20% increase in cases, even though the PM is in the news suggesting the growth in cases is slowing.

In my early updates and in my reports on the coronavirus, before the economics and investing community had woken to the threat that this virus presented, I spoke about my thoughts that the global economy may experience a depression. Today I am drafting an update on those thoughts prompted by mentions of this possibility on Bloomberg and CNBC and in written media. As a lead in I suggest readers consider this article by Greg Jericho at The Guardian Australia and come back tomorrow for my update – it may surprise you by being less bearish than you might expect of me…

March 28

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 67 for 27 March (released 28 March Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 509,164 confirmed cases (46,484 new), 23,335 deaths (2,501 new)

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 196 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (2 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

Yesterday the Imperial College London released the latest in the series of research reports on the COVID-19. The Summary contains this rather alarming information (my emphases in bold):

We estimate that in the absence of interventions, COVID-19 would have resulted in 7.0 billion infections and 40 million deaths globally this year. Mitigation strategies focussing on shielding the elderly (60% reduction in social contacts) and slowing but not interrupting transmission (40% reduction in social contacts for wider population) could reduce this burden by half, saving 20 million lives, but we predict that even in this scenario, health systems in all countries will be quickly overwhelmed. This effect is likely to be most severe in lower income settings where capacity is lowest: our mitigated scenarios lead to peak demand for critical care beds in a typical low-income setting outstripping supply by a factor of 25, in contrast to a typical high-income setting where this factor is 7. As a result, we anticipate that the true burden in low income settings pursuing mitigation strategies could be substantially higher than reflected in these estimates.  

Our analysis therefore suggests that healthcare demand can only be kept within manageable levels through the rapid adoption of public health measures (including testing and isolation of cases and wider social distancing measures) to suppress transmission, similar to those being adopted in many countries at the current time. If a suppression strategy is implemented early (at 0.2 deaths per 100,000 population per week) and sustained, then 38.7 million lives could be saved whilst if it is initiated when death numbers are higher (1.6 deaths per 100,000 population per week) then 30.7 million lives could be saved. Delays in implementing strategies to suppress transmission will lead to worse outcomes and fewer lives saved.

A pathogen so transmissible in this modern connected world that it would infect the entire global population within 12 months! Soak that in for a moment…

Another bad day (overnight in Australia) in Europe where both Italy and Spain recorded record numbers of deaths. Though numbers of new cases in Italy do seem to be curtailed through their lockdown measures. Still the spread of the virus in Europe shows just how difficult will be the task ahead to come out of lockdown. French hospitals will reach full capacity within 48 hours. New York and Los Angeles still look to be very problematic. The US has just based a hospital ship off the coast of LA which effectively increased by two-thirds the number of ICU beds available in the region. Much was made of the US becoming the country with the most cases, but given that the populations of the US and all of Europe are the same that would be a better comparison.

Boris Johnson has tested positive for COVID-19.

The WHO continues to warn about the severe impacts in the developing world and is imploring developed countries to contribute to their response and provide other assistance.

March 27

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 66 for 26 March (released 27 March Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 462,684 confirmed cases (49,219 new), 20,834 deaths (3,540 new)

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 194 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (3 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

The WHO numbers are 24 hours out of date when published, understandably because they must be compiled now from 194 countries. Sadly, the meter at the Johns Hopkins University has reached a half million infections. It is indeed a human tragedy on a global scale, but sadly we are much nearer the beginning than the end.

There is no point in sugar coating that. I know that we in developed countries can feel that we are already so impacted, with the isolation and so on, and I do not want to minimise that, but spare a moment to think about the people in refugee camps where they are living in very cramped and very desperate conditions while their health is already poor. Our challenges pail in comparison to some others’.

I am all about giving credit where it is due, and I was pleased to see that Scott Morrison spoke up strongly at the virtual G20 to help the developing world respond to this crisis. Of course it must be considered within the context of the cold war for competing interests between the Anglophone west and emergent China, and it is in contrast to his “keeping the boats out” mantra, and I do not see him in following in the footsteps of probably the best Liberal Prime Minister in my lifetime Malcolm Fraser (especially in his post-political contributions), but it is still a welcome development.

The debate about the Australian response to COVID-19 pandemic rages and today I add two more contributions.

Firstly this new post entitled “People Before Money“.

And this comment at The Guardian (and a similar one at The Conversation) on this article which goes to the heart of the salient issues:

Well said Dr McLaws, especially that key statement at the end.

For me the most frustrating and disappointing aspect of this debate is medical and scientific researchers feeling the need to step beyond their fields, but still under the shroud of being an “expert”, and talking about socioeconomic issues of which they are unqualified to do. In that arena their views are no more expert than your local bar fly.

As I discussed a month ago at http://macroedgo.com a month ago in “Politics vs Society” it is not a scientist’s role to determine the socioeconomic impacts or discuss them. Their role is to determine strategies to manage the impact of the pandemic, and doctors, having taken the Hippocratic oath, are obliged to support minimising the loss of human life. That oath is a commitment to the profession, patients and humanity, NOT to politicians. Every time they justify a strategy which favours lessening impacts on the economy over saving lives, they themselves are being political, and if medical doctors, are being inconsistent to the Hippocratic oath.

It is the scientist’s role to advocate for humanity. There are socioeconomists, including in Treasury, to consult on those impacts.

It is a politician’s job to weigh those issues and decide on the course of action. That is what they are elected to do, and it is they who must take ultimate responsibility.

Today I released another article in my series on the playoff between politics and society in the COVID-19 pandemic. It is deeply personal and as always I hope it is impactful.

https://macroedgo.com/2020/03/27/people-before-money/

Finally I want to make mention of one of my heroes of this pandemic, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO, who gave a brilliant speech at the G20 Extraordinary Leader’s Meeting on the COVID-19 pandemic. I share the following to whet the appetite, but it is a brilliant speech and implore all to read it:

This is a global crisis that demands a global response.

Today, I have three requests for our esteemed leaders:

First, fight. Fight hard. Fight like hell.

Fight like your lives depend on it – because they do.

The best and only way to protect life, livelihoods and economies is to stop the virus.

No excuses. No regrets.

Thank you for the sacrifices your governments and people have already made.

Many of your countries have imposed drastic social and economic restrictions, shutting schools and businesses, and asking people to stay at home.

These measures will take some of the heat out of the epidemic, but they will not extinguish it.

We must do more.

March 26

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 65 for 25 March (released 26 March Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 414,179 confirmed cases (40,712 new), 18,449 deaths (2,202 new)

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 191 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (2 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

A third of the world’s population is currently in lockdown with India now enforcing measures. Spain has joined Italy in being a focus of much concern with the pandemic intensifying there. And I have real fears for the US, especially the large cities of New York and Los Angeles. It is unfathomable how anyone could even believe for a moment that measures could be lifted there in 3 weeks!

I have been reflecting in recent days on which of my views as expressed here at MacroEdgo and in my comments at various media (The Conversation and The Guardian) and other blogsites have been incorrect. I can think of two.

In my update on 11 February (now archived at Coronvirus (COVID-19) Updates – Page 1) I detailed my thoughts on how the pandemic would progress, how the global community of nations would respond, and what would be the economic impacts. I said the following:

Authorities in all countries will have been drawing up plans for many years on how to deal with this type of event. This represents the most serious challenge to that planning.

Presently every developed country will be asking themselves these questions:

what is our capacity to test everybody displaying flu-like symptoms and at what point do we start and at what point do we stop (and devote resources elsewhere)

at what point will we stop large public gatherings (sports events, conferences, concerts)

at what point will we close schools

at what point will we stop public transport and encourage employers to ask employees to work from home

how will we ensure that we can continue vital services such as health, water, electricity

at what point do we close the borders completely to all non-citizens or residents

I now realise that, given the way the pandemic has progressed in many countries and the way their elected officials have spoken publicly about it, while health officials and their scientific communities would have been thinking about these issues, the elected officials in most countries were not. (And yes, I still refuse to use the “l” word as it is entirely inappropriate in my view.) I pride myself on being suitably cynical, but I am amazed by how often I am naïve to just how self-interested are the political class.

While all developed countries undoubtedly did have these contingency plans there ready to be adapted to meet the (emerging) specifics of the disease, it is clear that in very many countries – especially the Anglophone sphere – the scientists and medical profession, with varying degrees of buy in from health officials, have needed to fight all of the way to get the elected officials to enact the contingent policies to protect public health in optimal fashion. Clearly many elected officials and even bureaucrats ticked a box in completing the task of drawing up the plans, as a theoretical exercise, but then baulked at implementation given the obvious economic impacts.

The political “followers” of Australia, the UK and the US give all of the appearances of having been dragged kicking and screaming with each additional step to slow the spread of the virus, such that they have been behind the curve all along rather than getting out in front of it as I, the WHO, and others had been imploring for almost two months.

Contrast that with the strong Leadership of one of the smallest Anglophone countries, New Zealand. Now that is a Leader of which a nation can be proud!

The other error was in suggesting in a comment somewhere (I can not recall where) that closing borders in Europe would be akin to Australian states closing borders and would thus be impractical. Obviously I was wrong on both counts there with virtually all European countries having closed their borders, and in Australia Tasmania, Northern Territory, Western Australia and now Queensland have closed their borders to non-essential traffic.

March 25

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 64 for 24 March (released 25 March Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 372,757 confirmed cases (39,827 new), 16,231 deaths (1,722 new)

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 189 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (4 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

Regular readers will note that my updates were getting later. With working from home arrangements in place, I had to rejig my resources and I have now done so.

Checkout my latest post on Facebook and please share…

March 24

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 63 for 23 March (released 24 March Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 332,930 confirmed cases (40,788 new), 14,510 deaths (1,727 new)

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 185 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (3 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

When I started my daily updates on 9 February this was the data from the WHO situation report:

China : 34,598 cases (3,401 new); 6,101 severe (1,280 new); 723 deaths (86 new)
Rest of World: 288 cases (18 new); 1 death

Now cases from China constitute less than 25% of the total cases, and my country of 25 million people has almost 5x the number of cases that had been reported from the “rest of the world”, and then there had been only 1 death outside of China. All of this in just over 6 weeks, which feels for me like over 6 months, and for doctors in Lombardy Italy must feel like 6 years! While President Trump insists he cannot abide by the lockdown of the US lasting beyond a few weeks!

Today I will limit my writing to simply pointing the reader to this excellent article by Tomas Pueyo entitled “Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance“. It encompasses all that I have been saying for 7 weeks, only it does it with more much more detail and clarity than I have managed to achieve. If you read nothing else today, this is a must read!

March 23

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 62 for 22 March (released 23 March Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 292,142 confirmed cases (26,069 new), 12,784 deaths (1,600 new)

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 182 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (4 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

Today I released a new post entitled “Australian Followship” which built on the material that I included in the March 22 update.

March 22

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 61 for 21 March (released 22 March Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 266,073 confirmed cases (32,000 new), 11,184 deaths (1,344 new)

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 178 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (6 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

Apologies but today my report will concentrate almost entirely on Australia. Tomorrow I will have a more global roundup of developments.

I am going to put together a series of resources which, for me, tells the story of Australia’s response thus far to COVID-19. Independently, these disparate data and opinion pieces add up to damning evidence in support of what I have argued on this site for 6 weeks that the Australian Government has failed to reasonably protect Australian lives.

Firstly, let’s start with some raw data. Now my family had been noticing a fading out of national data being reported in Australia – instead individual state data was being reported – but that has reversed in recent days, in part because the media was complaining about having difficulty in accessing these data.

According to WHO situation reports, on 19 March Australia reported 199 new cases, an increase of 39% to 709. On 20 March that increased another 164 to 873. And in the press on 21 March the latest reported number of cases stood at 1,049. So within 3 days the number of cases more than doubled from 510 to 1,049. And remember – remember! – that the Government strict rules on who can be tested precludes people being tested unless they have travelled or had contact with a confirmed case in the previous 14 days (though on Friday it was broadened to allow testing of people in aged care facilities).

So how do we stack up compared to other Countries?

Answer – not well, and remember, these data are dependant on how much testing is going on. (Please note source of this graphic is FT).

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) is releasing statements daily but unfortunately they are not consistently reporting data. The report on 17 March contained this graph containing key information.

Source: AHPPC coronavirus (COVID-19) statement on 17 March 2020

Note that this is out of date and pre-dates the dramatic increase between 18 March and 20 March. Note also the reduction in the blue portion of the bars denoting “overseas acquired” and the growth in the green portion for “under investigation”. As it will be immediately known when testing who travelled overseas, this is a strong suggestion of a significant ramp up in local transmission being detected, and not from contact with known cases (which are denoted in the orange portion).

OK, so we did not act with caution and implement anywhere near stringent-enough biosecurity protocols to clamp down on the introduction of COVID-19, even though concerned voices were attempting to be heard.

These are the options still available to us as laid out in a great piece by John Daley of the Grattin Institute, and my regular readers will notice a very clear echo in the Option C which Daley choses as the prefered way to go.

Still Australian political and bureaucratic followers dither and either fail to grasp the full scale of what is heading our way or refuse to react in a way which would ensure minimal lives lost in Australia.

Next an article from George Monbiot, a columnist at The Guardian UK, explaining why the politics of Australia, the UK and America “isn’t designed to protect the public from COVID-19” (and note that right through my discussions on these pages I have lumped these major Anglophone countries together, as recently as in my post on Friday “The First Victim of War is the Truth” which I wrote and published before finding Monbiot’s great piece).

Finally to what has been the effect in Australia to the dithering, confused and self-interest-predominating response of our Australian politicians.

This is a video that I recorded from live television, CNBC, on Saturday morning (Australian time, from New York early evening Friday) where a business person operating across 11 countries notes the extreme level of nanchelance from key Australian team members.

As I said in “COVID-19 Elephants in the Room” with reference to the GP in Victoria who was criticised by their Health Minister for treating people when unwell after returning from the US before the depth of their problem was understood, the level of complacency in Australia is a direct result of the political and bureaucratic followers deliberately seeking to understate the risk that this pandemic poses to Australia to lessen economic impacts.

So on the one hand professional people who are failing to comprehend the scale of the problem heading our way is understandable, and on the other hand a public only now coming to grips with it and fighting over toilet paper and stripping shelves bare to stockpile in case of shutdown, is all related to inept leadership in Australian which has become “followship” (as Mr Hockey actually admitted during his last visit to Australia).

March 21

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 60 for 20 March (released 21 March Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 234,073 confirmed cases (24,247 new), 9,849 deaths (1,061 new)

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 172 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (6 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

March 20

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 59 for 19 March (released 20 March Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 209,839 confirmed cases (16,556 new), 8,778 deaths (828 new)

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 166 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (7 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

Today I released a new post “The First Victim of War is the Truth“.

In my post of 10 March entitled “COVID-19 Elephants in the Room” I stated the danger in making assumptions about how this disease manifests given that it has been known to mankind for only just over 2 months since my friend Dr Shi Zhengli identified the causative agent. I, myself, have run a foul of this in that when I recommended that professional sportspeople continue with their televised competitions to act as a distraction to people undergoing home isolation I had assumed that the information that had been promulgated since early in the outbreak, that young adults were not highly susceptible to severe disease, was correct. In the last 24 hours there have been concerning new observations emerging from Italy that this is not the case. Given this new information, while the comparison between our heroic health professionals remains valid, the threat to the health of those sportspeople is greater than assumed at the time that I wrote those comments, and I have to say that any decision to continue to play those sports must be weighed very carefully on the basis of protecting the health of the young adults who play those sports involving very intimate contact which does not allow for any effective measures to reduce the risk of transmission.

March 19

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 58 for 18 March (released 19 March Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 191,127 confirmed cases (15,123 new), 7,807 deaths (786 new)

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 159 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (1 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

Today I am working on a new blog post which I will release tomorrow which details my views on recent developments on the Australian response to COVID-19 and my thoughts on the issue of school closures together with how my family is approaching this vexing issue.

In the mean time, if you wish to absorb some more of the detail surrounding this issue then I recommend you spend 40 minutes watching this video from a discussion at the National Press Club yesterday – I was truly impressed by Dr Lokuge!

March 18

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 57 for 17 March (released 18 March Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 179,112 confirmed cases (11,526 new), 7,426 deaths (475 new)*

(*The WHO has changed how it reports these data, not separating China and “rest of the world”, most likely in part a consequence of President Trump’s recent moves back to closely linking the virus to China. I will follow the WHO lead as the daily change in official numbers is now nearly totally from outside of China.)

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 158 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (8 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

On a slightly uplifting note, pun intended, I want to talk today about the value of arts in our lives. Strange I know, even for me, because I have been told all of my life that I can not hold a note and it is true. But when I look at what is emerging from Italy, the western country to be hit hard first, it occurs to me that it is artistic expression that people are falling back on to lift spirits and it is being shared through modern communication methods. The children are drawing rainbows inscribed with Tutta Bene (everything will be alright) and there are scores (I can’t help myself) of videos being shared of people sharing their musical renditions and songs. It really is a wonderful expression of hope and solidarity.

I am privileged to have close contact into one very small Italian community by virtue of the fact that I own a holiday home there – hence my upcoming post – so I am able to gain a view on the challenges that they face in confinement. And remember this is an impoverished area that has done it tough for a long time. But even so, when we are asked whether we in Australia are yet in lock down, and respond that we are not, they find it difficult to believe given the examples that are abundantly clear on what has happened in China and now in Italy and broadening in Europe.

I will briefly take up the main issue of lockdown in Australia revolving around schools. The main arguments against that that keep appearing are 1) the children of people working in vital services, such as in health, will require minding and so these vital workers will need to withdraw from service or make alternate arrangements (leading in part to the second point), and 2) that children home from school are more likely to come into contact with people at higher risk of suffering serious infections such as grandparents.

So firstly this is an admission that a key element of schooling is seen by Governments to be childminding while adults are meant to add productivity to the economy. That should not be news to anybody taking notice of what Governments has been saying and the lack of resourcing for actually teaching our children. Secondly, I would imagine that health care workers are some of the most informed members of the public about risks to the elderly and so should be making different arrangements for their children. And finally, if this is all just about childminding for people who work in vital services, then surely it does not take a lot of thought for Governments to come up with ideas to achieve childminding for those people, such as closing 75% of schools and using the others as outright child minding – and, at the same time, paying the teachers (the young and healthy ones) who volunteer to work at those schools double pay for doing so.

As I said at the weekend, the older members of staff at one of my son’s schools have voted with their feet and on Friday a note came home listing many who had retired immediately, gone on leave immediately, or had significantly reduced their days effective immediately. Their actions are entirely reasonable and I applaud them for having the courage of their convictions.

Finally, I might make mention of sports stars. I understand the arguments being made about them being concerned about their families as well as their own health if they are going about their usual lives routinely and playing professional sport. But there are two points here. That is no different to those people working in vital services who are at far higher risk. What is more, generally they get paid much, much less than professional sports people in high profile sports. The simple reality is that sports people are able to earn such high incomes because they provide distraction from the modern reality for people. And there has never been a greater time for the need of distraction as we are about to experience most of the developed world in lockdown. In the sport that I follow most closely, rugby league, in big matches they talk about “going to war”. I really think these people need to give very careful consideration to why it is that they have such a privileged position within our society. And I will say this, if in this hour of need they do not find the courage to play the role for which they are so handsomely rewarded, then I think once this is all over we need to make some major changes. They should not be taking home income that is many, many multiples of the income of people who make real differences in the lives of people while putting their own in jeopardy. Undoubtedly the revenue is there in the sports, but there needs to be some sort of equalization taxation so that that income flows through to real heros of society.

March 17

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 56 for 16 March (released 17 March Brisbane, Australia, time)

World (ex-China): 86,438 confirmed cases (13,874 new); 3,388 deaths (848 new)

(Please do not read this as trivialising what has occurred in China – nothing could be further from the truth – I consider those data now unreliable and of little value in posting. See my update on 11 March and my post “Politics Vs Society in the Coronavirus Outbreak“).

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 150 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (4 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

Official figures indicate that with a significant surge the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 outside of China has overtaken the Chinese official number. The number of deaths increased by almost one-third and also overtook the number of deaths in China.

March 16

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 55 for 15 March (released 16 March Brisbane, Australia, time)

World (ex-China): 72,469 confirmed cases (10,955 new); 2,531 deaths (333 new)

(Please do not read this as trivialising what has occurred in China – nothing could be further from the truth – I consider those data now unreliable and of little value in posting. See my update on 11 March and my post “Politics Vs Society in the Coronavirus Outbreak“).

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 143 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (9 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

Official figures indicate that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 outside of China will overtake the Chinese official number within 24 hours as the number of cases escalates globally.

In the UK there seems to be some recognition that the “herd immunity” argument is not playing out politicly – not least of all because so many genuine experts are speaking out about the stupidity of such a strategy, such as in this article where an epidemiologist thought it a satire until he realised they were in fact serious – and there seems to be some backtracking from it. As usual our followers, the anti-leaders, are behind and the Australian PM yesterday said this in a press conference:

When you take children out of schools and put them back in the broader community, the ability for them to potentially engage with others increases the risk, and that is the understanding we have. There are also issues of herd immunity to elect children as well… And we may want to touch on those issues.

Sound like somebody scrambling to make sense of their nonsense, no? So much so that they actually only managed to say nonsense in the end.

My best advice to Australians is to trust their own intuition on what is best for yourself and your family, because clearly our followers are firmly concentrating on trying to save their own political lives.

Globally central banks have tried to continue the momentum of last Friday with enormous monetary policy easing, including the Federal Reserve in the US dropping their rate by a full percentage point (taking it to the zero lower bound). In Australia effective quantitative easing was confirmed and initiated (so my analysis in my 11 February update proved correct). All major central banks have initiated major operations. The only problem is that it scared the markets and they have recommenced falling sharply, so no opportunity to reset shorts. My interpretation is that central banks are much more concerned about the plumbing of financial markets than they are letting on – after a 10% bounce in the US on Friday, it would be a monumental error to have sort to add such enormous additional support if it were not needed to prevent a serious dislocation, and that thought is enough to scare equity market participants. I heard a lot at the weekend how this was not a GFC-like event, but it is starting to shape up that way. Which is pretty much how I thought things would play out, only it will likely be worse since so much of the global economy is shut down.

In the UK there have been some comments which elude to the likely length of the shut down. The highly vulnerable over 70s were told to prepare for self-isolation for 4 months, and that is likely counting on some sort of reprieve due to northern hemisphere summer. We are in this for the long haul, but besides positioning for that financially and with investments, it is probably best to not think about that too much at this stage – better to take things a day at a time… things will one day be back to “normal”, but as I said from my very first comments on 3 February, the world has changed and we will all remember these events for the rest of our lives…

March 15

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 54 for 14 March (released 15 March Brisbane, Australia, time)

World (ex-China): 61,518 confirmed cases (9,751 new); 2,199 deaths (424 new)

(Please do not read this as trivialising what has occurred in China – nothing could be further from the truth – I consider those data now unreliable and of little value in posting. See my update on 11 March and my post “Politics Vs Society in the Coronavirus Outbreak“).

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 135 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (13 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

Official figures indicate that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 outside of China will overtake the Chinese official number in the next 48 hours as the number of cases escalates globally.

Just some brief comments as it is Sunday. My heart has been filled with the many videos showing Italians singing and playing musical instruments during their confinement. This week I will finally write my post “How to Buy a Holiday Home for Under 60K” – it will be great to write about something all the more uplifting, and perhaps give some ideas to others. Of course social media and news is full of details expressing the challenge that all of Europe confronts now at the epicentre of the pandemic. Next USA, I fear, as many others are now beginning to express publicly.

I want to tip my hat to probably the best leader in the world right now, Jacinda Ardern, the leader of our neighbouring country New Zealand, for acting decisively to enact mandatory 14 day isolation on all entrants to the country. No doubt this was a major aspect of Australia’s PM feeling isolated, himself – though not literally because apparently Dutton was non-symptomatic and non-infectious when they interacted (meanwhile, Ivanka Trump who was in contact with him days earlier remains in isolation because of that contact) – and finally moving to do the same here. In my household we shake our heads at this man at least 20 times a day, and now I can not say his name without including moron in the pronunciation.

It is to the point where Australians need to make their own choices on how they will protect themselves and their loved ones as the Government is so concerned to minimise impacts on the economy and with their own egos and not being seen to be backflipping on all that they have argued. Unfortunately the comments by the deputy chief medical officer today gave a hint at adopting the “herd immunity” argument being run by the UK Government, which is essentially a justification after the fact to hide their ineptitude and excuse to not throw the kitchen sink at it now. Schools not closing is ridiculous, and is more about the economic impact of parents needing to stay home with children, confirming what we all knew that schools most important role in society is now child minding. The staff of the school that one of my sons attends has voted with their feet as indicated in a letter sent home Friday – although not explicitly stated, the number of changes involved proves it – many have decided that they will not put their lives at risk to mind children. Some went on leave abruptly, others retired. Good on them!

Markets staged a strong bounce on Friday, starting in Australia with a swing of around 9% on the ASX200 to finish up strongly by over 4%, but with significant dispersal (eg Qantas down 12.64%, CBA up 5.15%). The momentum kept up through the European season and culminated in a rise of almost 10% in US indices. I was a little relieved to see coordinated action to arrest the steep declines – as I indicated in my update on 11 February I expect unprecedented action and I consider it justified on this occasion. Also, I had completed my trimming of shorts that morning, with very considerable profits, and bought a small parcel of Forager Australian Fund (FOR). I expect this to be only a reprieve and if it extends a few days I will be looking at reinstating some short positions – though it might be difficult to pay the higher price for the options, with the very high volatility now embedded in pricing, I think it very highly probable that the market has much further to fall over the 6 months ahead. Thus I can not envisage making significant purchases of stock for my SMSF for some time yet.

March 14

Johns Hopkins University up-to-date dashboard on COVID-19 data is here.

My optimism/pessimism level – from 10 to 1 in decreasing optimism – stable at 1 (this could be upgraded with some unexpected development, but the information emerging now globally is very concerning which confirms rapid and widespread transmission, including in well developed countries, with the clear suggestion of high mortality rate.)

WHO Situation Report 53 for 13 March (released 14 March Brisbane, Australia, time)

World (ex-China): 51,767 confirmed cases (7,488 new); 1,775 deaths (335 new)

(Please do not read this as trivialising what has occurred in China – nothing could be further from the truth – I consider those data now unreliable and of little value in posting. See my update on 11 March and my post “Politics Vs Society in the Coronavirus Outbreak“).

By way of brief summary, COVID-19 cases have been reported from 122 countries/territories/areas reporting to WHO (5 new) where over half have confirmed cases of local transmission.

Official figures indicate that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 outside of China will overtake the Chinese official number within 3-5 days as the number of cases escalates globally.

The most significant development in the last 24 hours is how close in on the major leaders the virus has come, especially on the leaders of the Anglophone countries which have been the most willing to downplay the effects of the pandemic concentrating more on economic impacts than on societal loss. There have been discussions for days about people near to President Trump having been infected, and yesterday it was revealed that Australian Foreign Minister Peter Dutton contracted the virus in the US and met with Trump administration staff. He also met with Ivanka Trump. And on returning to Australia Dutton has been actively involved with the response to COVID-19 in meetings with all other senior Ministers and Prime Minister Morrison. In Canada the wife of the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been infected and so Prime Minister Trudeau is in 14 day isolation.

Throughout the world containment measures only previously imagined in Sci-Fi movies are being enacted. Most countries in Europe have closed schools and universities. Some countries are closing their borders entirely. Most countries throughout the world are closing down parts of their economies knowing of the consequences but placing the lives of people ahead of money.

Of course northern hemisphere countries are praying for some seasonal respite as summer approaches, and they are sure to receive some in any case as other seasonal respiratory infections abate.

In the Anglophone countries of USA, UK and Australia, there is a patent trend of being behind the curve and discussion in the UK overnight seems to indicate the reason – the concept of “herd immunity” – to justify slow and incomplete response to the pandemic. The idea would appear to be that we let a large swathe of the population become infected so that a minority of people – proponents suggest the most vulnerable – can be protected prior to the northern hemisphere autumn. Many experts in the UK have already spoken out against the strategy. Never doubt the ability of politicians to find a strategy to justify an ends that they wish to choose for political means. However, if these politicians think that they are such brilliant propagandists – on the level of the Chinese Communist Party – to wallpaper over thousands and thousands of preventable deaths in the name of minimising economic disruption, then they are seriously deluded, and they will learn that there are economic and political consequences when societal impacts are so great. All of this just further proves how out of whack our leadership, and superficially, society, has become in contemporary Anglophone nations, but I have little doubt that the human crisis unfolding will put an end to this “greed is good” era.

In Australia the Prime Minister announced that from Monday he was recommending gatherings of over 500 people should be curtailed, after he goes to the footie on Saturday night, except of course for people who are unwell or are in isolation due to contact with known infected cases. The only problem now is that he has been in contact with an infected case – Peter Dutton – but his denial runs so deep that his first response was to maintain that he would still attend. Even the great Moronison had to finally accept that he was not acting responsibly, at all, if he still went ahead and attended.

Amazing stuff when politics and personal ego recklessly endanger the lives of millions of people!


Previous Daily Updates Beginning 9 February


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