coronavirus nick coatsworth
Deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

It’s no surprise that faith in our politicians and institutions remains low given the contradictory and misleading comments so regularly espoused.

Two days ago it was widely reported that Dr Nick Coatsworth, Australia’s deputy chief medical officer, had said Victoria’s intensive care capacity was at 82% and COVID-19 cases accounted for one in 10 intensive care patients.

This was despite 31 people currently being in intensive care in Victoria due to COVID-19. Based on this ominous warning, Victoria would have only 400 intensive care beds in total.

However, a few days earlier modelling performed by the Grattan Institute provided to Nine said: “Victoria would need to record between 960 and 1885 new infections daily for 10 days to fill the state’s existing intensive care beds.” And: “The state has 695 intensive care beds and the capacity to rapidly expand that number if cases surge, according to state Health Minister Jenny Mikakos.”

According to the Grattan Institute: “From where we are now, and the lockdown steps taken, things would have to go seriously wrong for ICU capacity to be an issue in Victoria.”

While Coatsworth wasn’t technically lying, he doesn’t appear to have been upfront that Victoria has plenty of surge capacity.

Then there’s Victorian Premier Dan Andrews, whose early popularity has faded as the state’s infections have soared and a stage three lockdown is maintained.

On Sunday he tried to justify the rationale for Victoria’s face mask law: “80% of all new cases since mid-May in Victoria could be attributed to transmission in the workplace, including in the aged care sector.”

This comment appears to part misleading, part ironic.

Yesterday Tony Neal, counsel assisting the judicial commission into the hotel quarantine disaster, told the commission: “Comments made by the chief health officer … have suggested that it may even be that every case of COVID‑19 in Victoria in recent weeks could be sourced to the hotel quarantine program.”

If most, if not all, of Victoria’s recent outbreak was caused by returning travellers who in turn infected security guards who went on to infect their families, it would appear difficult to claim that all infections occurred at workplaces, as Andrews suggested.

(Ironically, the workplaces most at risk are hotels used for quarantine and guarded by incompetent private security workers, and meat plants, which Andrews has steadfastly refused to include in lockdown restrictions despite their massive risks.)

The biggest concern for Victorians though — other than their disappearing civil liberties — is the outbreaks in aged care facilities. New York and Sweden showed what happens when the aged aren’t properly protected.

Until recently it has been reported that employees in aged facilities were not required to wear masks and staff were regularly transferred between centres, greatly increasing the risk of cross-infection. Infected patients were not being transferred to hospital, instead being forced to remain in their facilities.