In close collaboration with Seoul National University's Structural Complexity Laboratory


Why I'm sharing this

Control of Covid'19 needs the best strategies possible. The consequences of bad strategies are deaths. For six weeks or so, I've been concerned by the appallingly lax response of Western governments to Covid-19. To be blunt, despite claiming to be listening to experts, they are either getting atrocious advice, or they are not attending to the advice they are getting. I've been trying to build my own website to try to explain why the response is too slow, and where it will lead, but it's urgent, and Tomas Pueyo does it better than I could in any reasonable time. Please read it and judge for yourself. As far as I can tell, the information is reasonable, and it is consistent with my own investigations. If it matters to you, I, Bob McKay, am staking my own reputation, as a PhD mathematician, and as a competent researcher with over 200 published papers (albeit in relatively unrelated fields) on this: I do not believe it is misinformation. I believe it to be much more accurate than what Western governments are telling us. Please pass this on. If you happen to notice any problems with the link, please let me know.

I wrote the above on 15th March, and had been watching our governments' reaction with disbelief since the start of February (yes, even while our own home was directly threatened by bushfires – I was particularly aware of it because of having lived in Korea for ten years, and spent months in Wuhan over a long period). While our governments have started to react, it is still too little, too late.

What do you mean, appallingly lax response

Australia-specific, but you can hopefully see how it applies to almost any Western government

I think it was about the time that Australia made the second extension to the ban on entry from China (from memory, probably early-mid February, I recall that I was just starting to relax from our very real and very near bushfire threat). I was particularly observing the situation because I have spent a fair amount of time in Wuhan, and lived in Korea for ten years. It became obvious, from doing analyses similar to Tomas' on the worldometer data, that the danger from travellers from Korea, Italy and Iran was greater than from China (assuming that China was truly locking down Hubei, which I was pretty sure of). I was concerned enough that I wrote to the ABC in response to their coverage (so this isn't just misremembering the past), but got no response. A couple of weeks later, our government banned travel from Korea, which was wise (my apologies and sympathy to my Korean friends, but it was the right reaction). Unfortunately they didn't ban travel from Italy, despite the fact that it was again obvious that it was the most dangerous source, and by then, given the Chinese lockdowns, clearly far more dangerous than China. Again I wrote to the ABC: no response, but to be fair, they were probably overwhelmed by contacts. I'm stating this to point out that this isn't just hindsight. Also,that these failures had consequences, in significant numbers of unnecessarily introduced infections. Further instances included the failure to cancel the Australian Grand Prix till the last minute, when the danger was absolutely obvious a fortnight before. Because of the urgency, I'm writing this before I have had the chance to check today's news, but as of yesterday, the failures are continuing. A few days ago Donald Trump cancelled all travel from the Schengen area. I don't associate Trump with wise actions, but this was one. Australia, yesterday, was still allowing travellers from disaster areas. What do I mean disaster areas? Right now (well, as of yesterday), the perception is that Italy has the highest level of active Covid-19 outside of China. That could be true because it's clear that their statistics are still catching up, but check out the statistics of (for example) Norway or Iceland. You probably assume they're safe. It's probably partly due to better detection, but their active case levels per head of population are comparable with or higher than Italy's (and far above China's).

Speaking of China, where is probably the safest place (in terms of likelihood of catching covid-19) to walk down the street today? I would suggest Beijing, because there are very, very close to zero active cases on the streets – they're getting close to 90% of cases having recovered, and the rest are under secure lockdown. Of course, a foreigner walking down a Beijing street today would probably be immediately locked up, but they wouldn't catch covid-19. There is close to zero chance of China allowing a covid-19 case on a plane. Yet Australia continues to ban travellers from China, at enormous cost to our economy. This is going to cost us even more. China must be pretty damn annoyed with us by now. Their economy is going to recover soon, it's going to be the only large economy in the world that is likely to avoid collapse, and they will have plenty of countries desperate to export raw materials to them – including us. Plus they can supply the test kits, protective clothing, ventilators etc. that we urgently need (they ramped up production unbelievably fast, they don't need that production capacity now because they know who has coronavirus, and they know they're not on the streets). We probably need to bypass much of our medical device certification (which may require urgent legislation), but at this critical juncture, taking the word of the Chinese that a test kit or a ventilator works is better than not having one. Right now, we need to remember that the perfect is the enemy of the good.

Update 3rd April: Unbelievably, the Australian Border Force has confiscated a shipment of hundreds of thousands of facemasks because “they don't meet Australian Standards”. In a world where other, wiser governments are encouraging people to make their own from old t-shirts, because anything is better than nothing. If I were cynical, I'd think that they were actually confiscating them to supply to our poorly supported health workers.