Cross BorderCOVID-19: Freedoms under Assault

COVID-19: Freedoms under Assault

I read an article printed in the Jakarta Post: “Politics of pandemics. How online ‘buzzers’ infect Indonesia’s democracy, jeopardize its citizens”.

The article basically takes the viewpoint that dissenting voices not supporting a total or partial lockdown of Indonesia with the subsequent damage this will do to the economy are irresponsible. Let’s examine that.

Undoubtedly, this strain of Coronavirus (and there are many); COVID-19 is a dangerous virus to the very elderly and those with impaired immune systems, but there is little evidence, so far to suggest it is any more dangerous to a healthy person than the common flu. Mortality rates are high, but only amongst the elderly.

Globally each flu season, millions of people contract Influenza. According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) In the USA alone, so far this flu season 36 million Americans have contracted flu, with 370,000 hospitalized and 22,000 deaths, but no borders have been closed or bars, restaurants, and clubs shutdown.

The World Health Organization (WHO) puts global deaths from flu variants at between 290,000 to 600,000 each year.

In Indonesia, the annual incidence of influenza associated severe respiratory infection is estimated to be between 13-19 per 1,000 people or 1.3% to 1.9% of the population.  This study carried out between 2013 – 2016 by a collaboration of the CDC and WHO, previously mentioned, noted that there is a high prevalence among children and young adults.

At Vanderbilt University School of Medicine’s testing center for Coronavirus, per 1000 people tested, flu cases are outnumbering Coronavirus cases by a significant margin. According to Dr William Schaffner, resident professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases; “Our rate of positive Coronavirus tests is less than 5%.  Out of every 100 tests, we get 5 positives.  We have 3 to 5 times as many positive tests for flu and other respiratory diseases, but mostly flu”.

Schaffner also notes that the hospital’s coronavirus results are almost certainly much higher than in the general community as a whole, as tests are only conducted on those with fever and respiratory symptoms.

How many people have contracted coronavirus with only mild symptoms and just gone about their daily business?  The figure is estimated at around 80% will experience either no, or only mild symptoms.

Italy is now the worst hit country by the Coronavirus.  As of writing 53,578 are infected; of which 4,825 have died.  Very interestingly and significant for Indonesia, the Italian National Health Institute (ISS) reports the average age of coronavirus victims is 79.5 years old; and of those infected, at 63.

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In Indonesia only 7.82% of the population are 65 years or older which has proven to be the demographic most affected and at risk from Coronavirus.  Conversely, the current flu season is affecting the young more severely.  In the US Dr Schaffner has reported high incidences of B Victoria and H1N1 which disproportionally affect children and young adults.

23.87% of the Indonesian population are aged 0-14 years with a further 16.76% in the 15-24 years age group. This 40.63% are at much more at risk from B Victoria and H1N1, but no measures have been taken to stop their spread and certainly no borders have been closed or shutdowns ordered.  Vaccinations do exist but how many receive them.

83.19% of Indonesia’s population are 54 or younger.  The statistics from Italy seem to imply that this then does not pose a serious threat of morbidity to this demographic.  A March 17th sample produced telling results.

As we can see from this Italian sample it is the very elderly and infirm that are at serious risk from Coronavirus.  All of Italy’s victims under 40 have been males with serious existing conditions.

Given these facts this brings me back to the sensationalist article that appeared in the Jakarta Post.  The author writes; “Indonesia, or at least its capital, is now on the verge of a massive outbreak of a highly contagious disease that has engulfed the world like wildfire, killing thousands of its inhabitants. The COVID-19 pandemic is no science fiction. It’s a real-life threat faced not only by Indonesia, but by over 140 other countries.”

As of writing 13,336 have died from the Coronavirus globally.  More than half these deaths occurring in China and Italy, and only 48 in Indonesia.

The author of the Jakarta Post article goes on to say:

“In the past few days, at a time when the central government is expected to act fast to respond to the pandemic, social media users have been engaged in a heated discussion over whether Indonesia, or Jakarta, should impose a partial lockdown to “flatten the curve” of infection in order to save lives.”

This implies that COVID-19 is the most serious risk to Indonesian health.  Giving what we know about the average age and health of the victims, isn’t influenza a far greater threat?

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Currently the USA has 24,000 positives for COVID-19 and 324 deaths. 22,000 have died so far this flu season just in the US.

Number of specimens positive for influenza by subtype in North America

Data source: FluNet ( Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) Data generated on 13/03/2020

Vaccines do exist for the various influenza strains, and are being developed for COVID-9, although none are currently available, so perhaps this lack of a vaccine has encouraged these extraordinary measures globally by governments, but we  all need to be aware of encroachment on civil liberties under the guise of your own protection and it is right to debate this on social forums.

When a government imposes restrictions on its people, then I think it is only proper that the ‘Buzzers’ as the author of the Jakarta Post article has called them, be allowed to question the decisions of their government.  This is the freedom of speech we all value and have fought wars to protect.

The truth about the Coronavirus will become apparent over the next month.  It is noteworthy that China seem to have Coronavirus under control and are returning to a fully functioning economy.

In the meantime, as the real level of the threat becomes clear I suggest will all follow the CDC advice for all viruses.

The CDC recommends the following to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, which include both coronaviruses and flu viruses: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands; avoid close contact with people who are sick; stay home when you are sick; and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Looking logically at COVID-19 and the subsequent grab for our freedoms by governments around the world, I can’t help but believe that the danger lies in the medicine and not the alleged threat from the illness.  Viruses come and go and they kill people.  In Australia 7 people are dead and the economy is at standstill.  In the UK it is 28 and in the USA 400.  For this we will cede our freedoms and plunge the global economy.  WAKE UP!

“Disclaimer: The author takes full responsibility on the content of this opinion and is also not part of the editorial responsibility.”

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