Economist Gigi Foster appearing on Q&A (Image: Supplied)

This week we were struck by a real mask off moment (in more ways than one) from Nick Cater in The Australian. Comparing the plight of locked-down Victoria with that of loosely-regulated Arizona, he concluded:

Arizona is paying its own price. Its COVID death toll on Saturday was 4688. Victoria, with a similar-sized population, has registered fewer than 400 deaths. Some, however, may view the loss of life in Arizona as an acceptable price for the maintenance of freedom.

Arguing for an approach that would result in a 10-fold increase in deaths requires some awkward contortions, and, in some cases, it has.

So credit to Cater, and the following, who have been admirably direct in their equation of living breathing people with numbers.

Adam Creighton

Creighton, the Oz’s economics editor, established himself as king of this genre of take with the following effort in April:

However many lives the more onerous restrictions have saved, the cost is looking enormous and far more than we typically spend to save lives. If we’d followed the Swedish trajectory we might, crudely, have an extra 4500 fatalities by now (our population is 2½ times the size).

For the federal government alone, that works out at $48 million per life saved, given the $214 billion in budgeted federal assistance. That’s more than 10 times the conventional estimate for the statistical value of a human life…

Andrew Bolt

When not expressing terror at government overreach, Bolt was shrugging at the prospect (soon to be a reality) of a few extra families needlessly losing their grandparents;

Note: 40% of aged care home residents die within nine months. The average stay is just under three years.

So Victoria’s bans are doing huge damage to — essentially — save aged care residents from dying a few months earlier.

Gigi Foster

The ABC is still searching through its archives for an issue it won’t present both sides of. So back in July Q&A host Hamish Macdonald might have been the only who was shocked, just shocked, when economist Gigi Foster advocated for Australia to follow the example set by Sweden, using the following stats:

If you look at what’s happening to those death counts around the world, in every country that has had a proper first wave, [they are] somewhere between 0.5% and 0.1%t of the population.

That translates in Australia to about 12,000 to 25,000 deaths for people who are predominantly elderly or immunocompromised. But it’s a body count.

Indeed. It was somewhat less shocking to those of us who recalled her previous appearance on Q&A three entire months earlier.

John Kehoe

In the midst of this, we have to give credit to The Australian Financial Review’s John Kehoe, who was very happy to humanise the potential victims of the virus. Like, really, intimately humanise the potential victims. Under the headline, “Lives matter but at what cost?”, he offers up his strikingly not-that-old dad for the economy:

My father is 68 and insists he’s had a good run. With the swimming pool and tennis club in his Victorian town now closed, his daily pursuits are off limits. His physical fitness and mental well-being are suffering.

Some seniors like him would not put their own life above the livelihoods of their children and grandchildren, if the economic and social costs become too great.

Peter Fray

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