Part of me would have loved to start this year’s blog with something other than Covid-19. However, it remains the predominant, and in some jurisdictions, the only health issue that people have any interest in. It is as if heart disease, diabetes, cancer and depression (to name a few) no longer exist. Or if they do, they do not warrant any concern or action from the public health powers that be.
On a brighter note, the world is dividing into two camps. Countries including Denmark, Japan, Ireland, and England are dispensing with virtually all restrictions and people are living their lives. At the other end of the spectrum are China and New Zealand. Closer to (my) home Australia has also divided with New South Wales leading the way and being to varying degrees being followed by all states except West Australia which remains cut off from the rest of the country.
With two years of data, we can see what impact certain measures have had by comparing different jurisdictions with similar demographics. For example, New York state can be compared to Florida and New South Wales to Victoria. If degree of lockdown correlated with fewer deaths this would be apparent on data. It is not.
As we enter 2022, most of the western world has received two doses of vaccine. Interestingly, in Australia, the number of active cases has never been higher than at present. Yet as of January 30 the worldometer website lists 324,459 active cases and 385 as serious or critical. That means 99.89% have either mild or no symptoms. Having spoken to friends in NSW the clear message is they experience mild sniffles or sore throat or other cold like symptoms for a few days.
That so many are getting the virus after being vaccinated is actually a good thing- strange as that sounds. The combination of vaccination and natural immunity from having contact with the virus is potent in preventing serious illness. Hence the extremely low percentage of serious illness.
We also know that vaccination does not prevent transmission. Therefore, there is no health benefit in excluding people who are not vaccinated from entering certain places. If I am in a cafe, it does not make any difference to me whether the person at the next table is vaccinated or not. If the person has the virus, then it is possible (if I am close enough for long enough) that I can pick it up regardless of their vaccination status.
In Western Australia we are about to have the situation where a person who is unvaccinated can enter a shop selling food and alcohol. If they seek to buy alcohol, they will be refused but they can buy food. The person is in the shop regardless. Supporters of this say it is to encourage vaccination. In reality it is simply a punitive measure which will more likely have the opposite effect. And those who want liquor can order online and get home delivery.
An intensive care specialist Dr Luke Torre started a Change.org petition calling on doctors in WA to support the opening of borders on February 5 as had been promised. Intensive care is the pointy end of any medical condition so if the head of an intensive care unit says now is the time, we need to take notice.
You don’t need a medical degree to figure out that the best time to open was prior to Christmas when school was out, many are on holidays, the weather is warm, and lots of time is spent outside. This is what the rest of Australia sensibly did.
There are still some who believe that elimination is an option. Belief in the easter Bunny is more logical. For those people who buy that, I have a fantastic bridge in Sydney that I can sell you. For those interested please be in touch as the money received will enable me to live the high life.
Seriously though, we are now in a situation where the virus is, for the vast majority, no more than a mild cold. As with every illness be it flu, pneumonia, gastroenteritis etc, some will have a severe illness and a small number succumb. This is life on planet earth and always has been. We have sought to protect the vulnerable as best we can without stopping families reuniting, banning attendance at funerals, or discriminating on the basis of what is in your supermarket trolley.
Those who want to stay locked down, for as long as they like, are not prevented from doing so. The rest of us want to live life in a normal (not some dystopian “new normal”) way. I remain optimistic that ultimately sanity will prevail.
Medical Doctor, author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, Dr Joe Kosterich wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life.
Joe writes for numerous medical and mainstream publications, is clinical editor at Medical Forum Magazine, and is also a regular on radio and television.
Joe is Medical Advisor to Medicinal Cannabis Company Little Green Pharma, Chairman of Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association and sits on the board of Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA. He is often called to give opinions in medico legal cases.