Australia's high density buildings are not designed to mitigate the spread of a virus as they have poor air circulation, insufficient balconies, and are usually designed for people who are away all day and only home to sleep. Our cities do not have enough open space areas for residents in high density apartments to escape to, yet we are still inundated with business and media statements extolling the benefits of population growth that can be accommodated in ever higher densities. As health minister you have a duty to refute these these bogus claims.
Minister for Health and Aged Care
The Hon. Mark Butler MP
It now seems like the Covid virus has returned and may become another global emergency. Naturally there will be some soul searching as to the reasons for previous failures in addressing the pandemic including blaming our life style. This is arguably justified because in many countries there has been strong opposition to lock downs, face masks and of course the vaccine which excited many conspiracies theories that while being absurd did cause some reduction in vaccination rates. Include below are two papers on the issue of covid infection rates and human densities. The first paper is from the National Centre for Biotechnology which concludes that the spread of the virus was primarily driven by population density. It is rather a logical conclusion since we know how the virus spread in cruise liners (the Majestic Princess being the latest) which were described as floating petri dishes. The spread of pathogens is even more pronounced in caged animals like chickens and pigs where millions of animals were destroyed because of infections all of which makes it difficult to argue against the NCB findings.
However the second paper arrives at a different conclusion which is based on infection rates in selected cities that would indicate that these cities had lower infection rates despite high population densities. However I would argue that this assessment did not take into account the accuracy of reporting, the rigor applied to preventive measures, the designs of the buildings or the level of air pollution which is higher in poorer communities where residents are more likely to have health problems. There is no doubt that China leads the way when it comes to lock downs; the first in Wuhan lasted about 76 days and the second in Shanghai about 60 days. These were major lock downs of a severity that no other country could have enforced and those countries which were more lax suffered with the US exceeding a million deaths, a figure now believed to have been surpassed by India where its claimed 470,000 deaths is according to the WHO about one tenth of the actual figure.
However China is highly sensitive and it received a lot of criticism, much of it unwarranted, for its handling of the outbreak making it likely that they would fudge data on any bad news. Nearly all of the recorded deaths on the Chinese government's tally occurred before April 17, 2020 — a day when China's National Health Commission revised the death toll up to account for earlier cases that had not initially been included. In the 18 months since, more than 14,886 cases of COVID-19 (not including 8,800 asymptomatic cases) have been recorded in China but according to the National Health Commission only four people have died.
If these figures are accurate it would mean China has a case fatality ratio for the past 18 months of 0.016% , 12 times better than Singapore at 0.2 per cent and 62 times better than Australia's rate. This despite in the same time period, other countries like Australia and Singapore that initially locked out the virus with hotel quarantine and kept fatalities low, have recorded hundreds of deaths each.
Its also worth noting that the author of world bank research paper was a senior development specialist who is strongly in favor of high densities as a way of promoting economic growth. Much the same type of propaganda is circulating in Australia but we cannot rely on lock downs and certainly not the type that were used in China. Our existing high density buildings are not designed to mitigate the spread of a virus as they have poor air circulation, insufficient balconies and are usually designed for people who are away all day and only home to sleep. Our cities do not have enough open space areas for residents in high density apartments to escape to and yet we are still inundated with business and media statements extolling the benefits of population growth that can be accommodated in ever higher densities. As health minister you have a duty to refute these these bogus claims.