This morning I received an email from “Cathy” who describes herself as a LinkedIn News Editor , asking for my response to a recent story published in the ABC news website on “International student arrivals to quarantine at Parafield Airport facility under new SA plan”. Why she asked me I do not know (perhaps because I once taught at the University of Adelaide). I wrote a reply but my response was “too long” and cut short when I posed it. Here is her request and my reply in full (with images added since my first attempt).
David, can student-only quarantine hubs help universities recover?
My name is Cathy Anderson , and I’m a LinkedIn News editor. We often reach out to LinkedIn members who can add an informed perspective on today’s news and trends.
As Australia’s tertiary education sector continues to reel from border closures, South Australia has announced a plan to repurpose buildings at Adelaide’s Parafield Airport to create a student-only quarantine centre.
Two apartment blocks in Sydney are also being considered as the first student quarantine hub in NSW.
We’d love to hear your perspective on this issue. How do you think the tertiary sector is faring? Could these plans kickstart the return of international students?
I think this is utter madness which ignores the fundamental issues about the spread and the deadliness of Covid19 to different age groups in the population. Isolated housing for students in a vain attempt at “quarantining” is impractical, pointless, and profoundly immoral in my view.
Here are some points to consider:
1.) before March 2020, the accepted “Science” (“The Science” if you will) was that only the sick and infectious would be quarantined, the most vulnerable among the population would be protected as best one could (and vaccinated if a safe one was available), and the rest of the population allowed to go about their lives with minimal and voluntary measures taken (like staying away from work if one was sick, washing one’s hands, and coughing into a handkerchief. This is broadly the policy advocated but in the Great Barrington Declaration which I support and signed the week it came out.
2.) it has been clear from the very beginning that the disease affects different age groups in radically different ways. Children and young adults (like university students) have a very, very low infection death rate which is statistically insignificant and which is much, much lower than other death and injury risks (like car accidents and the annual flu). The death rates increase as the population group get older, with people aged in the late 50s and early 60s suffering death rates which are similar for a bad flu season, up to those in their 70s and above for which the death rate becomes quite serious. The statistics show that the vast majority of deaths have occurred in this age cohort (median age of death in Australia is 82 years) and they also had other serious “co-morbidities” (like Alzheimers, diabetes, heart disease, obesity) which would have killed them sooner or later anyway. From this data it is clear that the elderly are most at risk and should be protected, while the young are virtually risk free and should be left alone and lot locked up in so-called “quarantine centers”.
[Australian Deaths by Age Group]
[see also Ufuk Parildar, Rafael Perara, Jason Oke, “Excess Mortality across Countries in 2020” The Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (3 March, 2021) here and the graphing website “Weekly Excess Mortality in 2020”
Australian Dept. of Health “Coronavirus (COVID-19) at a glance”
3.) Again, the statistics show that most deaths (40+% in the US and 75% in Australia – mostly in Victoria (96% of all aged care home deaths or 72% of all covid deaths in Aust.)) have occurred in nursing homes. In fact, being in any confined space for lengthy periods of times increases the risk of infection (the viral load factor) and death many times. This kind of “confinement” occurs in hospitals as well as domestic homes which suggests that “lockdowns” and isolation are the exact opposite of what a good health policy should be. Creating “student-only quarantine centers” would just be another example of this.
4.) The current focus on “cases” is completely misplaced as this ignores the error rate in the process (testing for fragments of DNA which may or not be from an active covid virus), the age group in which the person tested as “positive” lies (are they low risk or high risk), whether or not they actually have the disease and show symptoms, and whether or not the disease is serious enough to treated by a doctor or in a hospital. This essential information is not provided by the press in its daily bulletins which allows the government and their medical advisors to grossly exaggerate the threat and to take the appropriate steps (if necessary) to remedy the situation.
5.) I believe the panic about Covid has led to education policies (school closures) which have been a disaster, especially for secondary school children. For low risk tertiary students the disruption to their education has also been very significant, which range from them still being charged high fees for sub-standard online teaching (via Zoom), preventing them from having the complete learning experience of being on campus and meeting with their peers and their professors on a regular basis.
Thus, in conclusion, I completely oppose the creation “student-only quarantine centers”. This only perpetuates the useless policy of quarantining the very, very low risk young adult, student population and adds to the economic and social disruption of our society, which I believe is both unnecessary and immoral.
For further information I suggest the following websites: