The Cost of “Living With The Virus”

I noted in my previous post that the New Zealand media is eagerly pushing the notion that Elimination Has Failed, and that we need to re-open because the Virus is Inevitable. Luke Malpass – the chappie I criticised there – is actually one of the tamer examples. The likes of Barry Soper and Heather du Plessis-Allan are truly over the moon at the prospect of the Great Re-Opening. It’s all a bit sickening, considering that New Zealand remains an international success story in its handling of the disease – one suspects that the media rather hates that the wider public don’t share their eagerness to rejoin the (plague-infested) world. One also suspects that 2020 has damaged the reputation of the New Zealand media to a level where it might actually engender more contempt than the politicians themselves… but the media have yet to realise that.

This obvious media narrative is also a bit sickening when one considers that none of them mention the human cost of their proposals. Australia is cited, not for the disaster in Sydney, but for “learning to live with the virus.” Ugh.

Well, today, I thought I’d push back against the narrative, by taking a look at that hypothetical human cost. The Victorian State Government has released some projections for how it expects things to go until the end of January 2022, allowing for vaccinations:

And we get the following graphs… again, for Victoria only. Never mind New South Wales.

Victoria’s population is roughly 6.7 million, whereas New Zealand’s is roughly 5 million.

Now, the low-end estimate for Covid deaths in Victoria until the end of next January is about 1000. The high-end is about 5000, and the most likely estimate is about 2000.

Translating that into the New Zealand population gives a low-end estimate of 750, a high-end of 3700, and a most likely estimate of 1500. In a handful of months.

This is not a death toll analogous to Influenza – which kills around 500 New Zealanders each year, never mind the deaths on the road, which kills another 300-350. Even in a best-case situation, this is something much, much worse.

It’s so bad, in fact, that any New Zealand commentator arguing that we ought to follow suit needs to have their head read. And yet they’re all doing it, as though their shopping trips to Sydney are more important than other people’s lives. “Learning to live with the virus” – in a country where the virus has been successfully suppressed – is code for wishing death and suffering on one’s fellow citizens, and yet none of these commentators are showing the slightest bit of self-awareness. So screw them all.

As a footnote, this goes double for Whiggish appeals to Inevitability, which invariably rub me the wrong way. I tend to prefer Lawrence of Arabia’s view – ‘Nothing Is Written.’ The media might like to think we still live in Francis Fukuyama’s End of History, with triumphant 1990s-style neoliberal capitalism… and now with added plague… but hitherto the twenty-first century has proven full of surprises. If the Virus is Inevitable, I’d like to think that New Zealand’s response says otherwise.

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