The idiotic Barnaby Joyce was on Radio National with journalist Patricia Karvelas and told her that the “best test of a competent government is that people don’t die” and that Australia has one of the lowest death rates from Covid-19 in the world. Then, when Karvelas asked him about the European Council issuing a warning about travel to and from Australia due to our outbreak of the Omicron variant, Joyce, in a knee-jerk lie said: “Well, people are not dying.” When Karvelas pulled him up on this lie, saying that “people are dying every day”, Joyce was forced to admit that he was wrong in saying: “Sorry, sorry. Correction, you were correct. I made a mistake. I shouldn’t have said that. But the numbers in which – the fatality rate is very low.”1
Knee-jerk lying is what this government does as a matter of course. They do it because they know that the media will often let them get away with it. In this instance, Karvelas did not. It is a shame this doesn’t happen more often.
Since the first case of Omicron was documented in Australia on November 27, we have experienced the worst days of the two years of the pandemic1. Previously, the worst days of the pandemic in Australia were in late March 2020 when the seven-day moving average of cases was 368 cases per day, in early August 2020 when that average was 552 per day and in mid-October 2021, when the seven-day moving average was 2,308. In this current outbreak, the seven-day moving average reached its maximum on January 14 when it was 110,660. At the time of writing (January 23) it is still over 60,0002.
As deaths lag infections by about a couple of weeks3, the seven-day moving average of deaths per day in these various waves in Australia peaked on April 7 (at 4), September 4 (at 22), October 14 (at 16). At the time of writing (January 23) the seven-day moving average of deaths is 65 per day2.
This Omicron outbreak was exacerbated by New South Wales premier Dominic Perrottet getting rid of most Covid-19 restrictions just as the Omicron outbreak started to take off in December, 2021, when the seven-day moving average was about 1,500 cases per day. Some restrictions were reintroduced when cases skyrocketed, but this was not a strong enough reaction to stop the spread4.
Prior to this most recent outbreak, Australia had recorded just over 200,000 Covid-19 cases. It is now almost 2,200,000. Similarly, there had been just under 2,000 deaths, now there are 3,1212. It is simply a bonus that the Omicron variant seems to have a lower death rate per case. However, when you have an extra 2 million cases, that is still a large number of deaths. We are less than a month into 2022, and already 900 Australians have died this year5.
What appals me is the fact that Joyce’s idiotic statement is symptomatic of the Morrison government’s attitude to the spread of Covid-19. They attempt to minimise its seriousness. You will have heard several instances of where Morrison and other ministers have said that the Omicron variant causes milder symptoms6. This is another government lie. It causes serious illness and death in a smaller proportion of cases. It is not milder for everyone. It still kills people.