Methinks the Police Minister Doth Protest too Much

Last month’s anti-lockdown protest should have set Sydney’s tumbrils rolling – did it?

What we saw today was 3,500 very selfish boofheads — people that thought the law didn’t apply to them.” So spluttered the NSW Police Minister David Elliott, of the crowd who took to the streets of Sydney’s CBD to protest against lockdown on 24th July. With another such protest in the offing, it occurred to me to look at the consequences of its predecessor, and see just what said boofheads had inflicted on their fellow citizens.

The Public Health Laboratory Network advises that “The median incubation period for COVID-19 is 4.9 to 7 days, with a range of 1 to 14 days”. On the day of the protest, 141 new cases were reported, and the 7 day average was 121. So about 16 cases per million of the population, or 0.00165%.

Given such miniscule numbers to build on, it follows that an event like the anti-lockdown protest that took place on 24th July should, if the prevailing transmission hypothesis is anywhere near correct, have been followed by a highly visible spike in new cases within ten days – a fortnight at the outside. After all, that was what Elliott clearly believed. “If we don’t see a [Covid] spike in the areas these protesters came from in the next week I’ll be very, very surprised,” he said. “I’m appealing to all 3,500 people to get tested tomorrow, if not for themselves for the sake of their family and friends,” he beseeched.

Nearly a month down the track, it’s fair to ask; has his pearl-clutching been vindicated? Not if the figures are to be believed. The rise in NSW cases has followed its desultory course, as it struggles to attain statistical significance, showing barely a bump in its progress:

Figure 1Source Wikipedia

You could almost say that the virus was progressing much as viruses always have, seemingly oblivious to all the all the panic it is causing, and unperturbed by our willingness to propitiate it by immiserating and impoverishing our society.

So far as I’m aware, no explanation for this lamentable refusal of the Covid virus to behave like a proper plague has been ventured. Nor am I aware of any attempt to correct the prevailing transmission hypothesis in the light of these data, to produce a more skilful epidemiological model, better fitted to informing policy. Perhaps that’s because, with few honourable exceptions, the mainstream media are too scientifically illiterate to notice such inconsistencies, and what passes for a political opposition has decided that the path to electoral revival lies not in calling lockdown into question, but in berating the government for not locking down harder, sooner.

Of course, it’s likely that, were the models adjusted to reflect this evidence, they would no longer produce such scary predictions, nor support the efficacy of lockdowns – and that would never do, would it?

A note on Covid statistics – throughout this blog, I use Wikipedia as a source of data for new cases and deaths by region. I have no reason to suspect Wikipedia of understating the figures – if anything quite the contrary. However, if any readers believe otherwise, and can direct me to a more reliable source, I’d be pleased to hear from them.

Tom Forrester-Paton

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