Covid modelling counts the dead

The institute charting Australia’s pandemic response has conditionally backed reopening once the vaccination rate hits 70-80%, though new research suggests doing so could leave 25,000 dead.

What we know:

  • The Doherty Institute estimates that with 70% of adults vaccinated and partial public health measures, 1457 deaths could be expected over six months; 
  • “Optimal” public health measures – including contact tracing and quarantine but without the need for lockdowns – could reduce that to 13 deaths, the modelling report indicates;
  • Doherty Institute head Sharon Lewin said the NSW outbreak did not change the modelling’s outcomes, despite it being based on reopening at just 30 cases (ABC); 
  • But new research by Australian universities suggests ending lockdowns once 80% of the adult population is vaccinated could result in 25,000 deaths over a longer time (The Guardian); 
  • The study, which is yet to be peer reviewed, says 270,000 Australians could be left suffering long Covid;
  • The authors called for a 90% vaccination rate among all Australians, including children, and a 95% rate for vulnerable populations;
  • It may be difficult to hit a 90% rate due to vaccine hesitancy (The New Daily); 
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian have called for the Doherty Institute plan to be followed, while WA Premier Mark McGowan says the modelling should be reassessed.
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Race to save Afghan athletes

More than 50 mostly female Afghan athletes and their dependants have been flown out of the country, following a lobbying effort by Australian sportspeople.

What we know:

  • Advocates for the athletes slammed Western nations for training and promoting female athletes as a symbol of opposition to the Taliban and then abandoning them (The Guardian); 
  • The calls sparked a lobbying effort by athletes including Olympian Nikki Dryden and former Socceroos captain Craig Foster (ABC); 
  • The sportspeople successfully pressured the Australian government to organise an evacuation from the chaos of Kabul airport on Monday;
  • The mostly female athletes have flown to Dubai, from where they'll be sent to Australia after being granted humanitarian visas;
  • Afghanistan's two Paralympians, Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli are among the group, and still hope to attend the Tokyo Paralympic Games, which kick off tonight.
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Home quarantine trial begins

A home quarantine trial has begun in Adelaide, in what could become the norm for Australian travellers returning from overseas.

The first participant has started their isolation period, with the trial to expand to 50 South Australians returning from NSW or Victoria (SBS). 

Participants will download a dedicated app, which uses geo-location and facial recognition to track users in quarantine (Gizmodo). 

The app will contact people at random asking them to provide proof of their location within 15 minutes, and travellers must also complete a daily symptom check.

Failure to do so could trigger a visit by police.

“They will be given a quarantine sign and a personal direction ... to display that sign on the front of the premises they’re quarantining at,” said SA police commissioner Grant Stevens.

If successful, vaccinated international arrivals could home-quarantine using the app in a matter of weeks.

It comes as a software developer created a fake version of Australia’s vaccine certificate, raising concerns about the vaccine passport system (Crikey). 

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Kelly joins Palmer’s party

Former Liberal MP Craig Kelly has joined Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party in a bid to secure vast campaign funding from the mining billionaire.

Kelly resigned from the Coalition in February after sharing Covid-19 misinformation (The Age). 

He plans to use Palmer’s war chest to spread his controversial views on lockdowns, masks, vaccinations and disproven treatments to counter the pandemic.

“We have a huge war chest. We can run television commercials, ads, we can finance a proper campaign that no other minor party or independent can,” Kelly said.

Kelly said his advertisements would be party political and that blocking them would be a breach of the constitution.

Palmer donated more than $80m to his party at the last federal election, helping to secure a surprise win for the Coalition through attack ads aimed at Labor (The Saturday Paper). 

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Australia joins commercial space race

Space company Southern Launch has secured the first permit for commercial rocket activities in Australia from the federal government.

Southern Launch will send a rocket into sub-orbit for Taiwanese private company tiSPACE from Whalers Way complex, 680km west of Adelaide (InnovationAus). 

Environmental impact data will be collected during the launch to assist in determining the site’s viability as a permanent location for future launches.

The Taiwanese company is also considering manufacturing rockets in Australia, according to the federal government.

There is some opposition from local residents, traditional owners and conservationists, with the launch pad located in a pristine coastal environment.

It comes ahead of the weekend launch in Florida of a tiny satellite created by WA’s Curtin University (The Conversation). 

The 10cm “CubeSat” will be able to take photos of WA and the moon.

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The Aussies love Beefy and he knows the country and the business community as well as anyone.

The UK appoints cricketer Ian Botham as trade envoy to Australia, as the two countries prepare to implement a free-trade agreement. It is unclear whether his nickname of “Beefy” is a good sign or bad for Australian cattle exports (Politico).

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Postscript: A Famous Honesty Researcher Is Retracting A Study Over Fake Data

A landmark study that endorsed a simple way to curb cheating is going to be retracted nearly a decade later after a group of scientists found that it relied on faked data (BuzzFeed News).

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.