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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.





Total deaths


Deaths per

million km2

Deaths per million
Australia 25499884 7692024 6468 63 8.2 2.5
Canada 37742154 9984670 29929 1191 119 31
UK 67886011 242900 103093 13729 56500 202
USA 331002651 9372610 670598 1645 176 5.0
China 1439323776 9706961 82341 3342 344 2.3
Sweden 10099265 450295 12540 1333 2962 132
Denmark 5792202 43094 6879 321 7465 55.4
Netherlands 17134872 41850 29214 3315 79211 194
Norway 5421241 323802 6848 152 469 28



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: April 16th, 2020



Australia’s coronavirus measures may have caused slowdown in confirmed cases reported daily, from 410 to about 250 on March 30.

A study published in Med J Aust, March 26 2020, by Meares and Jones, assumes that Australia has around 2200 ICU beds. The study calculates that this capacity would be exceeded by a total of around 22000 cases, although 44,580 cases could possibly be coped with.

I would like to know how full Australia’s ICU beds are presently and the prospect of filling them under the current restrictions and slowdown?

I have heard a rumour 60-80% of Australians will have been infected.before COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. At the current rate of 250 cases reported per day, assuming that only 10% of infections would be reported, I calculate 60% of 25 million infections would take 16 years to be reported.

An epidemic lasting 16 years, under current social and economic restrictions, could imperil Australian society. Previous world epidemics have run their courses within a few years, with more deaths.

There has been success in flattening demand for scarce beds, but is holding the Australian population in virtual quarantine for 16 years affordable?

In 2018, before COVID-19, 55% of Australians who died were 80+. Lockdown won’t prolong lives indefinitely and the benefit to elderly people could be at a cost to the welfare of younger people that is unfair.

My calculations could be wrong and I have only been able to pose questions. Explanations by those who decide and administer these policies is required.

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