Data above shows success in Australia at minimising fatalities to date from COVID-19. An epidemic is a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time. Deaths were attributed to COVID-19 in every State.
Herd immunity is the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a population that results if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease, especially through vaccination.
The prospects for a vaccine are, according to New Scientist, 21 March 2020, p45, ‘. . . the fastest we have ever cranked out a vaccine in response to an outbreak was with Ebola – and that took five years . . .‘
The other way is to allow 50-80% of the population to become infected quickly so that survivors will be in an immune herd. The strategy has ethical objections that it practices eugenics, aiming to improve the genetic quality of a human population. Some consider it is more ethical and politically viable to suppress the pandemic with economic and social restrictions that wreck the economy.
An article in aljazeera asks: Which countries have allowed the elderly and the sick to die in numbers, as an alternative to widespread economic damage caused by more stringent suppression measures?
Countries have responded differently, as is evident from this table.
|Deaths per million|
It remains to be seen if stringent suppression has merely delayed deaths until later, with more and longer lasting economic damage. A short sharp economic shock from epidemic virulence could possibly be less damaging overall, except for people who are without medical treatment. Countries that adopt a balance between medical and economic constraints may be best placed to countenance the uncertainties.
A possible philosophy is to keep hospital beds treating as many COVID-19 cases as possible.
Data: https://www.worldometers.info/ April 16th, 2020
A Minister of Health was responding to epidemic disease. He said:
‘Too many people are dying. We need to save more of the confirmed cases.’
He gave orders for a comprehensive survey of patients’ health conditions.
‘We need to know the diagnosis for each and arrange the best possible corresponding treatments.’
A survey team visited hospitals and identified the main categories of illness for every patient.
The Minister ordered that every patient would be able to access the best practice treatment for their condition.
A junior doctor who had studied statistics said: ‘They should have done their survey in the morgue. They should have surveyed causes of death and identified treatments that would have prevented each. By mistake, the best practice treatments were applied to conditions that had a prognosis other than death. They have surveyed survivors, when they should have surveyed those that succumbed. This would have saved more lives.
Is it a paradox that treatment needed might be inferred from a sample who can cope, rather than from those who have failed to cope?