Call by Liberal MPs for home quarantine for overseas travellers demonstrates a lack of understanding of vaccination

The Sunday Age reports “Morrison government MPs say vaccinated Australians returning from overseas should be able to quarantine at home, arguing it is unnecessary to force them into hotels “

Liberal senator for NSW Hollie Hughes, who was predictably amongst those arguing for less restriction, said vaccinated returning travellers should ‘‘absolutely’’ be able to quarantine at home.

Vaccination reduces the impact that infection has upon you. It does not make you immune to infection. Can vaccinated and still be carrying the virus, you would just be less sick. This means that a fully vaccinated person can still transmit the virus.

This is why we need to have high levels of testing during an outbreak.

This is why people who have been partially or fully vaccinated need to continue to be tested

This is why we need to have returning travellers in isolation, in government run facilities, until they test negative.

This is why people who are vaccinated need to lock down when there is an outbreak.

This is why we need to stop giving people like Liberal senator for NSW Hollie Hughes oxygen.

Certainly, home quarantine would be a potential game changer for thousands of people trapped overseas, as the experts argue. But it also poses huge risks for the rest of the community, if the returning travellers do not observe the stringent requirements of home quarantining until they return a negative test.

Richard II the nature, travails and responsibilities of kingship (ii)

If you’re going to watch the outstanding BBC series The Hollow Crown, and if you like Shakespeare, you should, you will be starting with Richard II.

When you see this production, you can’t but wish that Shakespeare could somehow be transported to the present-day and have seen this production and shots like Ben Whishaw, as the effeminate Richard, framed by the powerful figures of Bolingbroke and Mowbray.

It’s clear in this scene that Richard is out of his depth

It’s not Shakespeare’s greatest play for a number of reasons which I’ll spell out later. 

But it’s an important one because it lays the groundwork for Henry IV Parts I & II, Henry V, Henry VI, Parts I, II & III, which contain the Wars of the Roses and Richard III. These plays make up the BBC production of The Hollow Crown.

I have written about the nature of kingship in an earlier blog Richard II and the nature of kingship (i). Essentially, this play is an exploration of two ideas about kingship.

The first idea is that the King is appointed by God and cannot be deposed or his actions challenged. Ultimately, he is answerable only to God. This was known as the Divine Right of Kings.

According to this doctrine, when Bolingbroke returns early from banishment, he is committing high treason.

There are some real problems with this doctrine in the harsh world of politics, as the play will show. 

The other idea is that the King’s authority rests on primogeniture. The eldest son inherits the titles, rights and properties of the father. This applies to all levels and layers of society from the King down. It is a process of succession upon which stability in society depends. 

According to this doctrine, when Richard seizes the Duke of Lancaster’s property, which should rightfully pass to his son, Bolingbroke, not only does he commit high treason, he threatens the inheritance and succession of every noble house in England.

Patrick Stewart as John of Gaunt Duke of Lancaster

No sooner has he done this than the plotting to remove him begins.

Bolingbroke returns to England and is confronted by the Duke of York, who is Regent in Richard’s absence.

David Suchet as the Duke of York

York Why have those banish’d and forbidden legs

Dared once to touch a dust of England’s ground?

Bolingbroke: As I was banish’d, I was banish’d Hereford;

But as I come, I come for Lancaster.

Rory Kinnear as Henry Bolingbroke

At first, Bolingbroke simply wishes to reclaim his dukedom. But Richard has lost the support of the nobles who have flocked Bolingbroke. With the departure of Walsh forces, he now has no effective military support. The final blow comes when the once-loyal Duke of York joins Bolingbroke.

Richard and Bolingbroke meet at Flint castle, where Bolingbroke tries to be the true and loyal subject.

Bolingbroke sends a message to Richard, allowing him to retain his throne. The interesting psychological paradox, and ultimately the tragedy, at the centre of this play, is that Bolingbroke is unwilling to take the crown and Richard is, ultimately, prepared to give it up. 

Bolingbroke Noble lords,

Go to the rude ribs of that ancient castle;

thus deliver: Henry Bolingbroke

On both his knees doth kiss King Richard’s hand

And sends allegiance and true faith of heart

Even at his feet to lay my arms and power,

Provided that my banishment repeal’d

And lands restored again be freely granted:

If not, I’ll use the advantage of my power

Richard’s response is initially defiant.

Richard Yet know, my master, God omnipotent,

Is mustering in his clouds on our behalf

Armies of pestilence; and they shall strike

Your children yet unborn and unbegot,

Everybody then moves to London for the final public transfer of power to take place. 

But before that we get the distraction of the scene was the Queen in the garden, which has almost no dramatic worth whatsoever.  It’s allegorical, it’s about the kingdom as a garden,

There is then the scene in Westminster Hall where Bolingbroke tries to uncover the cause of Gloucester’s death. Bolingbroke examines Bagot, who has been linked in the play to the recently-executed Bushy and Greene, about Gloucester’s death. Bagot points the finger at Aumerle, who is Duke of York’s son.  

Tom Hughes as Aumerle later Rutland

What follows is a whole lot of argy-bargy of “you said, he said,”  including the fact that Thomas  Mowbray (remember him?) is dead. 

It is all is pretty hard to follow, but we are left with the impression that Aumerle is probably up to his neck in it.  What we don’t know is why it is important. 

This is why this play is not as satisfying as many of Shakespeare’s other plays. It’s hard to follow. 

 None of this is resolved and is cut short by the entrance of Richard.

Richard Yet I well remember

The favours of these men: were they not mine?

Did they not sometime cry, ‘all hail!’ to me?

So Judas did to Christ: but he, in twelve,

Found truth in all but one: I, in twelve thousand, none.

God save the king! Will no man say amen?

To do what service am I sent for hither?

York: To do that office of thine own good will

Which tired majesty did make thee offer,

The resignation of thy state and crown

To Henry Bolingbroke.

Richard Give me the crown. Here, cousin, seize the crown;

Here cousin:

On this side my hand, and on that side yours.

Richard enjoys his final moments center stage.

There is a wonderful scene where Richard, ever the self-centred, narcissistic, drama queen, falls on the floor and throws crown Bolingbroke’s feet.

Bolingbroke picks it up. Richard is consigned to the Tower and later to  Pomfret Castle, where he will languish in a loincloth until he is murdered. 

Then the play starts examining, albeit briefly, what it means for Henry IV to be king.

After Bolingbroke leaves Westminster, Aumerle confides to the Abbot.

You holy clergymen, is there no plot

To rid the realm of this pernicious blot

Later, York finds his son, Aumerle, carrying a treasonous letter. We are meant to know that it has implicated the Abbott and Aumerle. 

Enraged, York rushes off to the King, Aumerle gets there first, begs the King’s forgiveness in advance, which Henry gives without knowing why. York arrives with the letter, Henry is outraged, but he has given his word. The Duchess arrives, throws herself on her knees. The whole scene degenerates into farce. Henry condemns everybody involved, except Aumerle, to death. It’s all very confusing.

And then in the original text, a minor noble called Exton says

And speaking it, he wistly look’d on me,

And who should say, ‘I would thou wert the man’

That would divorce this terror from my heart;’

Meaning the king at Pomfret. Come, let’s go:

But in the BBC production this speech is delivered by Exton to Aumerle, who then murders Richard. It’s a far more satisfactory reading of the play because it’s the price that Henry extracts from Aumerle for his forgiveness of his treachery

If you need to see why there is confusion around AstraZeneca look no further than this

THE AGE reported an information sheet published by the Federal government “to help the public weigh up their personal risks estimates” on Astra Zeneca the article said.

“that 100,000 doses of the vaccine would prevent 21 deaths among those aged in their 70s, for fewer than two cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia.

For those in their 60s, three deaths would be prevented for 1.4 cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia (which has a local fatality rate of about 3 per cent).”

So, how many people are going to die? Twenty one In the a hundred thousand? Or is it just two? There’s a big difference and this description doesn’t make it clear. The confusion arises with the 21 deaths for fewer than two cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia which is pretty much incomprehensible.

The problem is compounded in the second paragraph where the figures are different there is more confusion with 1.4 cases and a local fatality rate of 3% and the number of doses not being mentioned as it is the previous paragraph.

It would be better not print this kind of material because it undermines what little public confidence remains not cast in the media but in the public health and Government.

Health Minister Greg Hunt Covid vaccine rollout ‘still on track’ despite AstraZeneca change. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Dicken’s Narrative Voice in Great Expectations

Dickens has chosen first-person narrative in Great Expectations. This presents some technical challenges. The first is establishing the credibility of a seven-year-old boy as the narrator. 

Pip is about seven at the beginning of the book. The older Pip, who is narrating the story, is presumably somewhere in his 50s. Not only does he have a far more sophisticated view of the world than the younger Pip, he also has a far more sophisticated command of the language.

In the opening chapter, it is established through the language of the narrative.

“As I never saw my father or my mother, my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones. The shape of the letters on my father’s, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair.”  

There is a sardonic and humorous detachment in the way Pip’s brothers are described:

“To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine – who gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle – I am indebted for a belief I religiously entertained that they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trousers-pockets, and had never taken them out in this state of existence.”

This is not the perspective of a seven-year-old child but the mature narrator establishing the triangular relationship between himself, Pip and Pip’s world.

Suddenly, the man starts up from the graves and threatens to cut Pip’s throat. The scene is remarkable because it establishes the seven-year-old boy’s credibility as a narrator. First, there is the urgency of the description of the convict: 

“soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars;”

and the urgency of the dialogue 

“Hold your noise!” cried a terrible voice, “Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat!”

“Oh! Don’t cut my throat, sir,” I pleaded in terror. “Pray don’t do it, sir.”

“Tell us your name!” said the man. “Quick!”

“Pip, sir.”

“Once more,” said the man, staring at me. “Give it mouth!”

“Pip. Pip, sir.”

“Show us where you live,” said the man. “Pint out the place!”

What follows is a remarkable good cop/bad cop monologue as the convict described what the young man will do to Pip and with his demands for a file and wittles, which sets up the psychological tension in the next chapter.

Civil disobedience and confusion spread in response to Covid and the vaccination roll out.

This morning The Age reported that “Only a quarter of nearly 38,000 fines handed to Victorians for breaches of coronavirus restrictions have been paid.”

As Julius Sumner Miller always asked “Why is it so?”

Because 75% of the people who are being fired do not believe that the fines were justified. They also suspect that the court system is So bogged down, they will probably never be brought to justice.

And then there is the vexed question of vaccine supply. The Federal government has backed the wrong horse.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has now announced Pfizer will be the preferred vaccine for under-60s and the government would immediately move to open access for 40- to 59-year-olds.

Pretty much the kiss of death for AstraZeneca and its local production facility.

As a result, people over the age of 60 are cancelling their second shot of the AstraZeneca vaccination. Many may be hoping to mix-and-match their second shot with Pfizer although there does not appear to be any evidence to suggest to this is particularly efficacious.

The switch to the Pfizer vaccine for the under 60s is because it is now considered that the risks of AstraZeneca for the under 60s now outweigh the benefits.

Sceptical members of the public, particularly those over 60, may now begin to wonder how long it will be before that advice will soon cover their age cohort.

There is also growing confusion about the supply of the vaccine. When asked about the supply vaccine, this is what Health Minister Greg Hunt said:

““In terms of national cabinet, the PM is focusing on the vaccine rollout. Firstly, to thank the states and territories for the way in which they have been able to pivot – I’ve given a couple of examples – but secondly to make sure that everybody is fully informed and coordinated.”

Inspiring stuff.

Victoria’s QR codes really don’t work very well. Actually not at all.

Yesterday at Coles at Victoria Gardens, I was trying to check-in at the QR code. The code is located somewhere below the height of my belt.

QR codes need to work

Not at eye level where you can focus camera. Now, this is not the government’s fault, this is Coles’ fault .

Once you have managed to get shot in, you have to register to download the app. This is after the fourth lockdown. I have being downloading apps for months. Multiple downloads.

I have also downloaded the federal government app. Fat lot of good that was.

I am then asked to put in my Apple password. Fortunately I can remember my password from amongst the 50 passwords (don’t use the same password more than once) I have.

No keyboard comes up

I am then asked to put in my code for my iPhone. No keyboard comes up

WTF?

How is contact tracing going to work when a government app simply doesn’t work?

The Age reports The Victorian government’s contact-tracing QR code system has processed almost 79 million check-ins, up from 37 million just three weeks ago, but experts say the code is poorly designed and could lead to unnecessarily slow and frustrating user experiences.

When the federal government launched its tracing app, everyone was frightened they were going to use the information to track everyones movements. Now, we find that it’s highly possible that the state government can’t even manage to get their tracing organised.

Perhaps all the paranoia about government is overstated.

I must admit that when I read Orwell’s 1984 in the sixties, even then I was always sceptical that a government could ever be that well-organised.

It is time to pivot our national vaccination strategy?

The graph of national vaccinations tells an interesting picture.

At first glance, this looks pretty good. The reality is not so good.

Nationally, 20% of the population has received the first dose. That means they have about 50% protection. Better than nothing, but not great. But only 2% are fully vaccinated four months after the start of vaccination.

” It is not a race” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison who was first in line to be vaccinated on 26 Feb. He is now one of the 2% of Australians to be fully vaccinated

The World Health Organisation sets a benchmark of 65% for herd immunity. At our current rate of progress, we will need 30×4 months to get there. That’s 10 years. There are many races that take that long.

The problem is the national uptake of the second vaccine. We should be seeing some pickup in fully vaccinated numbers, but we are not. Whether this is through complacency or through some hesitancy is not known.

The situation in Victoria is equally worrying.

This graph shows two developments.

The first was a huge surge in vaccinations in June in response to Victoria’s fourth lockdown. People realised this was serious.

The second, shown in the black circle, is a falloff when the lockdown restrictions were an immediate and dramatic falloff in vaccinations with the easing of lockdown restrictions. It’s a very worrying development, particularly if it continues.

So what’s the answer?

It depends on how you see the problem.

The first part of the problem is that we have a two jab vaccination strategy. One of those vaccines is being manufactured overseas and supply of both vaccines appears problematic.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that vaccination centres are standing empty and walk-up clients are being turned away. It’s ironic that eligible age cohorts are staying away in droves, while younger people are being turned away.

So it might be a good idea to switch suppliers to include a one jab vaccine: the Johnson & Johnson and to seek to manufacture it in Australia. But, until we can do that, we should import as much as we can to vaccinate everyone who wishes to be vaccinated.

Significant proportions of the population appear reticent to have a first jab and it would appear that an even larger proportion are reticent to have a second.

The government needs to start considering incentives for vaccination. The easing of travel restrictions for those who have had two vaccinations. 

Tax cuts? We hand out tax cuts to everybody. Why not make them dependent on some form of behavioural change? One-off incentive payments?

Until Australia can get vaccination coverage well in advance of its current rates, it will remain at risk of widespread outbreaks and/or lockdowns.

The political, social and economic consequences of this will be devastating.

Amanda Vanstone continues to crystallise public opinion.

Her article Walk a mile in their shoes, but don’t be a sucker in The Age today, was, as usual, her predictable defence of the LNP government. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to get some critical thinking from Amanda?

The article was about the plight of the Murugappan family, also known as the Biloela family after the town where they lived in Australia before being incarcerated on Christmas Island.

There were 61 comments on Vanstone’s article. Two agreed with her. Sometimes there were as many as 200 people agreeing with the dissenters.

There are certainly two sides to the argument. There is the one put by Vanstone and Michaela Cash: “We mustn’t blink now.”

Then there is the argument put by almost everybody else: “Come on, be reasonable, the compassionate, be human, be Australian. Let them go back to live in Biloela.”

The government knows it’s on the wrong side of public opinion because now there’s a little girl in hospital in Perth suffering from the life-threatening disease, pneumonia.

Thoughts and prayers.

The mask wearing message is not getting through at the South Melbourne market.

This picture was taken at the South Melbourne market. Of the seven people that can be seen in the photograph, four of them have not covered their noses.

Shoppers with masks at South Melbourne Market yesterday as Melbourne’s COVID-19 restrictions continued. CREDIT:WAYNE TAYLOR

Presumably the four circled only breathe through their mouths.

Henri Cartier-Bresson: Brie, France


I wake up every morning and see this wonderful photograph.
It is one of Cartier-Bresson’s compositional masterpieces. It is dominated by the trees that stand on the road that spreads out to the bottom of the picture. It’s a masterful asymmetrical balance. The long line of trees stretching out towards the distant line of buildings balances the wide sweep of grasslands that dominates lower right-hand side of the picture. Then, the straight tracks on the road provide an anchor for the picture going back to the horizon. Brilliant!