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Three Million Dead: The Pandemic Marches On

Today, April 16 AEST, the global casualty rate for SARS-CoV-2 reached three million dead, and around one-hundred and forty million aggregate cases. It is, of course, nowhere near the scale of WWII, where something in the order of 70-85 million people died when the world population was an estimated 2.3 billion, compared to the 7.7 billion of today. But of course, this is just year one. From a peak in January this year, where there was an average of some 750K new cases per day, and 15K deaths per day, there was a substantial drop in February, a flattening in March, and now we are on the rise again, just below 750K new cases per day, and around 12K deaths per day.

Some countries are doing better than others, and this is a clear indication of public policy decisions. Elimination as an objective clearly works as a strategy. A country with a dense population as the People's Republic of China, the origin of the virus, has one of the lowest rates of infection per capita, a position it shares with countries like Taiwan, Vietnam, and Laos, all of which adopted similar policies. At the other end of the scale are the smaller, dense, European countries like Andorra, Montenegro, San Marino, Luxembourg, and the Czech Republic which have an order of magnitude and more cases per capita. Sweden's experiment, despite excellent health care and a socially aware population, has resulted in infection rates several times greater than its neighbouring Nordic countries. The United States, the home of conspiracy theories and strong opinions on negative freedoms, continues to be the worst in absolute numbers and in the top ten on a per capita basis.

Australia, as a protected island-nation, has been fortunate with strong state premiers across the political spectrum managed the problems reasonably well. In contrasts starkly with a Prime Minister who claimed "The best protection against the virus is to live with the virus, to live alongside the virus and to open up your economy", a statement so incredibly ignorant at first I thought it was a joke-meme when I first encountered it. If you "open up" it means that some people don't live with the virus. It means that some people are infected, with life-long maladies, and that some die. The utterly bungled roll-out of the vaccine programme has been so great that the Federal government has now abandoned all planned targets.

Here is the grim reality that those close to me know I have been saying for over a year now. Everyone will catch this at some stage over the next ten years or so. Some countries are better protected than others, some have better health care, better policies on managing the movement of people. Incredibly, as a testament to the incredible skills of the scientific community, we know have vaccines of varying degrees of effectiveness. What this means, however, is whether or not one survives or becomes very much a relationship of not just the individual's health, but very much the economic development of the country and their health-care policy. Two-thirds of all purchased vaccines are destined for the richest countries in the world; then there is the stratification within those countries. Health care policy and developmental economics; it's a study on who lives, and who dies.