If you’ve been following The Dossier you’ll know that I’ve been collecting data on the Covid-19 omicron outbreak that we are in the midst of. I’ve made observations that confirm that omicron causes milder symptoms than other forms of Covid-19. But the less severe nature of omicron is offset, at least in part, by omicron being highly transmissible. Even though on average omicron causes less severe symptoms, there is always a percentage of individuals that show more severe symptoms than the average.
This percentage, though small, can easily represent a large number of people presenting to hospitals and requiring treatment in ICU’s across the country.
Indeed, I’ve shown in my article: Further Steep Increases in Covid-19 Cases, observations that there are increased hospitalisations already occurring in NSW as well as a worrying uptick in hospitalisations and deaths in other States and Territories. Given these factors, quantitatively determining the transmissibility of the omicron variant is critical to the management of the current outbreak.
In this article, we’ll attempt to do just that using the Covid-19 data presented in the chart below which shows case numbers for Australian States and Territories over the month ending Friday 7th January. As you can see from this chart, case numbers are showing rapid growth but is that growth exponential?
Australia is now firmly in the grip of the omicron outbreak with accelerating cases in all states and territories except WA as shown in the chart below. The evidence of omicron‘s impact on people’s lives is being seen in the long lines for testing, people becoming frustrated at waiting or being turned away because of early closures of centres over the holidays. People that have been able to get tested have had to wait days for their results to be processed. Others have thought to find rapid antigen testing (RAT) kits only to find that they are difficult or impossible to procure. Many, especially families, are finding that the cost of RAT kits are prohibitive (at $150 plus each). In summary, omicron has become highly disruptive given Government demands for testing compliance but fortunately, the illness itself isn’t as severe as the delta variant from reports so far.
It’s hard to estimate the true number of omicron cases versus delta because the distinction requires genomic sequencing which takes a week or two for results to become known. However, it’s thought that around 80% of cases are omicron in Australia at the moment, with omicron becoming the dominant variant within another week or so..
The charts below show the number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19, respectively. The data are but shown by State and Territory over the month of Dec 2021.
A feature of the Covid-19 data is the accelerating case numbers, as can be seen from comparing the charts shown in The Dossier over the Christmas – New Year period. In the chart immediately below, cases for NSW have almost doubled in one day to 21,151. Cases for all other States and Territories have increased to record levels as well, except for WA.
Today Covid-19 cases were at record levels in all Australian States and Territories except for WA. For NSW, 11201 new cases were recorded today, demonstrating that the apparent levelling cases at around 6000, over the past few days, were an artefact of reduced collections and processing of results over the Christmas period. Indeed, there were likely more Covid-19 circulating over the holiday period than revealed by the published health data (especially in NSW).
Ever since the omicron variant started infecting students and young adults in Gauteng Province in South Africa, it has seemed to be too good to be true: a variant that is much more transmissible (so that it replaces the more dangerous delta variant) but of itself, produces mostly mild symptoms with fewer hospitalisations. Bur omicron is still Covid-19; it hasn’t magically transformed itself into some kind of more friendly disease.
In America, anyone can become president. That’s the problem. George Carlin
Vitriol and Cynicism
I don’t know why it was important to teach this in Australia, but as a schoolchild, in Sydney, in my early teens I was taught that: “anyone in America can become president.” It’s an enduring memory from my early 1970’s period of schooling. I don’t remember the context in which it was taught to me, possibly social studies, or maybe from a teacher on an exchange from the USA.
“Anyone can grow up to be president” has been widely taught to generations of American schoolchildren but it’s always been a myth [1. 2]. You only need to look at the names of presidential candidates over the last few decades: Bush, George H.W. then Bush, George W.; and then Bush, Jeb made an unsuccessful run for president in the 2016 primaries; Clinton, Bill and then Clinton, Hillary (unsuccessfully); then Biden, Joe as Vice President and now Biden, Joe as a presidential candidate, and as I write, as likely President-elect.
There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system … It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. George Orwell, Part 1, Chapter 1, in 1984
In an earlier post Careful to Whom You Hand the Keys for Encryption I described the extraordinary events of 6 Dec when the so-called “encryption busting” Access and Assistance Act passed into law on the last hours of the last sitting day of Federal Parliament before the end of 2018.
It passed after the Labor Party opposition, who had been opposing the AA Bill (Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfuss described it as being “obviously dangerous”) gained a promise from the Government that amendments to the Bill would be considered when Parliament reconvened in February. Well that’s now and it occurred last week on the 13 and 14 Feb in a Bill introduced as the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2019 .
The Kingswood! You’re not taking the Kingswood, I’ve just shampooed the dipstick! Ted Bullpit, Kingwood Country (TV series 1980-4)
Most Australians are very cautious about whom they hand their car keys to. In that regard, they’re still a bit like Ted Bullpit (played by the late Ross Higgins) from the iconic Aussie 80s sitcom Kingswood Country (see the quotation above).
So how did encryption key laws pass both houses in the last hours of the last sitting week of parliament (6 December) in the lead up to the summer parliamentary break?
Given the apparently innocuous-sounding name of the “Assistance and Access Bill 2018”  it happened so quickly, at a time when most Australians were distracted with their preparations for the holidays. I’m not sure that many people will have much idea that the Australian Government now have presented our law enforcement and surveillance agencies with the right to circumvent internet encryption keys for matters pertaining to criminal and terrorist investigations.
The Government’s case has been led by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has consistently stated that laws enforcement agencies need powers to intercept encrypted messages to keep Australians safe from criminal and terrorist threats. He’s argued that the new laws modernise the way that authorities can access information but doesn’t expand on current surveillance powers. A key feature of the Government’s approach has been to stonewall objections to the Bill by the tech industry.
There’s a reason for the amendments to be referred to as the “Assistance and Access Bill” It’s as if the Government were condescendingly saying: “you tech guys are really smart, we need these surveillance and protection laws, just do your jobs and give us the technical assistance and access required.” Oh, and if you don’t do so voluntarily, we’ll make you do it by imposing heavy fines or imprisonment, on you as an individual, not just your company. Continue reading “Careful to Whom You Hand the Keys for Encryption”
I’ve been interested in who would fill the position of Science Advisor to Donald Trump since I posted this article (on LinkedIn) a year ago. Kelvin K. Droegemeier (pictured ) was confirmed by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee to be the Head of the OSTP. However, he still has one final hurdle of approval by the full Senate to overcome later in the year. I’ve been reading about him, his scientific background, his career, and religious convictions. He reminds me a lot of my late father-in-law, both in the resemblance of his photograph and in aspects of his character. I’m hopeful that he just might be the voice of reason in that America needs in the White House right now. I’ll tell you why later in this article. Continue reading “Science Advisor to President Trump”