Dr Liz Gordon: Mitigation and redemption


Right at the beginning of the pandemic, just six weeks ago, I wrote about the potential for a disastrous world death rate.  If the virus is as infectious as the flu, or even more so, I thought, then 3 billion people might get it. If the death rate, as mooted then, was 2%, then 60 million people may die.

This was before alert levels, mitigation strategies and lockdowns.  We have shown that, as human beings, we do not have to be the passive recipients of whatever the virus brings us. I had no idea, at the time of writing, that we could so quickly reorganise our society to prevent the spread of the infection.

But I do want to revisit my assumption of a 2% fatality rate. On known figures, this rate, measured as the number of dead as a proportion of number of infections, varies dramatically between countries.  Here in New Zealand it is currently .35 of a percent, although ;likely to rise to around 1%. In Italy, 12.8% of people infected with the virus have died.

The United Kingdom, with its excellent public health care system, is nonetheless experiencing a current fatality rate of 12.4% which is extremely high.  On the other hand, the USA is running at a rate of around 3.9%, which is around the same rate as China reported.

Of cours,e there is something fishy going on to get such differences. Possible explanations include:

  • Countries with high death rates actually have low reporting rates, thus inflating the results;
  • Some countries have much larger older populations than others (but surely not that huge?); 
  • There are differences of latitude in how the virus behaves;
  • There are more and less deadly RNA strands of the virus; and/or
  • Differences in health care between countries (which seems a bit fishy to me too).

I don’t know what the answer is, but the chart at the top of this blog (from the excellent Johns Hopkins site) shows that six European countries have by far the highest fatality rates. A race that no-one wants to win. I am sure this will have all the epidemiologists out in force, trying to work out what is happening.

From our perspective in New Zealand, we should just be grateful that we are here and not there. Things are not good in the UK.  Issues of huge fear among the elderly, food security and supply, political infighting over the response to Covid 19 (complete with shady right wing organisations modelling herd immunity scenarios), lack of places to exercise and confusing leadership with leaders spouting on about wars when they should be alleviating the burdens.  My English sister continues to celebrate being here.

The Guardian today has listed little stories about 80 victims of Covid 19, many of the health workers, bus drivers and care workers.  And Tim Brooke-Taylor, a very funny man. They are worth reading in full. 80 out of over 10,000.

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

I am still hopeful that Boris has come out from his near death experience a better man.  Today he thanked two nurses, including “Jenny from Invercargill” who he credited with saving him. Is his life now on a new, redemptive path?

Keep yourselves safe and well and be kind.


Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society.  She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.


  1. I am 100% convinced that NZ has totally bungled it’s defence to Covid-19. That is despite other countries applauding NZ’s response as a model for others to follow. At the 1pm press confrence yesterday, Dr Ashley Bloomfield the Directer General of the Ministry of Health was asked how he felt about being potentially voted as New Zealander of the year. I’m certain he is at the very heart of where we’ve gone wrong and why people are now dying. Yes, I’m blaming Bloomfield so the New Zealander of the year question makes me feel very unwell.

    The recent handling of the pandemic here has totally undermined the need to even be in lockdown and has given truckloads of fuel for the pro business brigade who feel the lockdown is epic overkill and needs to end immediately.

    1) In February as I’ve stated many times on this blog, there was compelling evidence from the UK and elsewhere that people with the virus but not displaying symptoms (asymptomatic) were spreading the virus. Dr Fauci in the States says up to 50% of people who get the virus display no symptoms. A recent reputable study shows that number is 78%. NZ has taken it’s directive from the World Health Organisation that only those with obvious symptoms can spread the virus. That is despite there being so much at stake and the WHO repeatedly bungling the most serious aspects of this pandemic early on by downplaying what was happening to appease China and even encouraging aircraft flight as being safe. Dr Bloomfield was adamant in his instruction that only symptomatic people can spread the virus. He is totally incorrect but the population of NZ got their instruction and all important education on Covid-19 from him. All these clusters around NZ were with people who clearly believed if a person was not sneezing and coughing etc etc, then there was no risk of the disease spreading. Same situation with staff and residents at aged care facilities around NZ. What a disaster that has caused severe damage and even death with tragically many more to come. This is a man being considered for New Zealander of the year.

    2) Bloomfield has given instruction that only people with international travel links are to be tested in NZ even if they display obvious Covid-19 symptoms. Blind Freddy can see the true method of learning the truth about the all important community spread was by testing people with C19 symptoms who had no known links to international travel. Even those that did get tested then had a situation where NZ labs refused to test their samples because of Dr Bloomfield’s adamant instruction regarding the criteria for testing. He finally changed that criteria recently but serious damage has been done to both the credibility of the stats and people who have the virus being able to spread it to others via community spread even if that is only now at supermarkets etc. Couple that with the eternity it’s taking to confirm each case of suspected community spread and you’re left with the clear conclusion the Ministry of Health are determined to control the narrative in this all important area to suit the message they want you to receive that community spread is not an issue in NZ.

    3) I have family involved in the health industry and I can assure you there is great confusion around both available tests and PPE gear. Bloomfield trots out the same Ministry of Health narrative that there is plenty of both and virtually dismisses feedback from doctors etc that contradicts that. Total bullshit. Doctors around NZ have requested 30 test kits for their surgery but in numerous cases have only received 5. The availability and instruction of PPE gear has been confusing at best hence them looking at a new system. The right hand didn’t know what the left hand is doing. Health professionals have been hung out to dry by the narrative Bloomfield spouts in keeping with what he’s been told, despite that information being incorrect. They are getting things right now but severe damage has been done in the weeks of bullshit, misinformation and confusion Bloomfield has been spouting off as facts.

    4) We all know how pathetic the “expectation” was for self-isolation with people arriving in NZ from offshore. Couple that with Bloomfield’s instruction that if you don’t have any symptoms, you can’t spread the virus equating to the perfect storm for C19 spread.

    5) Now, we have the farcical situation with “weekend” testing for the virus. This has been an epic blunder. First Bloomfield said there was less people out and about on weekends so testing would be down on midweek etc. Horseshit. In lockdown, every day is the same as the previous and next day. Reports from all over NZ highlighted that just as many people were out and about on weekends as weekdays, if not more. So why the bullshit? Because of very poor organisation by DHB’s and due to who is manning the testing stations around the country. They are in almost every case, medical staff from other areas of health including Plunket nurses etc etc. These nurses normally only ever work Monday to Friday. This is the main reason for low weekend testing. That has created a situation now where we have an epic false sense of security that NZ has passed the peak and is now over the worst of it. 100% WRONG. Recently, we we were told NZ has the capacity to now perform up to 6000 tests a day. Great. Has there ever been a single day where that was achieved? No. The maximum number of tests completed in one day was approximately 3800-3900 last week. On Sunday only 1600 tests were completed. What a farce. We are told we have only 18 people tested positive on Sunday and 19 on Monday. No wonder most of NZ now believes the worst is over and it’s time to end the lockdown. They have been hoodwinked and mislead at the worst possible time. No wonder Bloomfield decided to change the way testing numbers were reported to a weekly number that created a daily average. This was done simply to mask the inept testing on weekends. I’m picking today’s PC at 1pm will show a similar number of cases. Somewhere between 17 and 25. Those numbers are bullshit and very dangerous bullshit at that. Testing numbers tomorrow especially will be up over 4000 a day and you can expect the numbers of positive cases to increase to 80+ showing we are not at the peak at all. If we add the inevitable certain deaths we will hear about over the next days and weeks of elderly people and you will see just how irresponsible it is to be talking about ending the lockdown.

    Dr Ashley Bloomfield is working hard. Nobody can question that but his adamant instruction has been extremely unhelpful.

    • Jacindafan – In one of the publications emanating from Otago University’s 150th anniversary – which I have here somewhere – Prof Sir David Skegg described the NZ Health Dept as lacking in leadership.

      Medical doctors in my family, which includes/d very hard-working consultants and academics, regard the NZ Health Dept as fairly inept (as does my GP ), with non top-notch people, with comfortable jobs.

      Currently about 80% of the funding for the formerly-good UK NHS, goes on admin salaries; I don’t know the breakdown of comparable NZ figures, but think the health system here was buggered up by the bean counters – with bit of help from Sir Bill and co.

    • A very well written comment on how thinks are obviously you are writing from the heart and have the knowledge to make a good arguement. For a long time I have felt that the DHB model is a bloated model of unnecessary waste of money. For 5 million people we hAve 22 DHBs . All have a well paid chairman and an army of people who gather around a table and achieve little for their staff or patients. The ongoing lies re PPE is proof of this . On a personal note we are told to get the flu jab yet my surgery says there is no stock for another week. More lies

  2. I believe the likely reason that Australia and NZ have done so well fighting off Covid-19 is strongly connected to Vitamin D and lack of as much as anything else. Both NZ and Australia are coming out of hot summers where a lot of Vitamin was produced in our bodies. Not so much with our elderly that tend to protect themselves from the sun more than younger folk.

    Look at the United States. They are coming out of a cold winter where very little Vitamin D was being produced. Look at their death rates especially in places like Chicago and New York. It’s an accepted fact that darker skin results in it being a lot slower producing Vitamin D than white skin. Chicago stats are that 13% of the population identify as African-American….yet that demographic accounts for 68% of the deaths there. I appreciate obesity and economic factors etc also come into it but 68% is a huge number. When you put numbers into the mix like those and what’s happening / not happening in Australia and New Zealand, the Vitamin D question starts to stand out. I hope they can investigate this further urgently and distribute epic amounts of Vitamin D to those most in danger.

    • Jacindafan – Another thing is that historically, our primary produce has long – perhaps always – been better than that of the UK and USA, and we have largely taken that for granted.

      I lived and worked in the former for a number of years, enjoyed it – but ate much worse; far more processed food, simply because it was cheaper; only traveled in the USA – but they can do odd things with food. I missed our good quality (bowel cancer producing) meat in the UK – our roast could be a flap of lamb which I spent hours deboning to produce a lovely fatty garlic-infused feast; ditto working in Asia.

      Unfortunately our food in NZ has deteriorated, with dreadful amounts of junk food becoming a norm for many people, and that bodes badly for their health. Every state house should be planted out with fruit trees for a start – but govt never has the smarts to do this sort of thing.

      The standard cooking and nutrition classes of my childhood should be re-instated pronto, instead of pc activities like making copper birds and turning tin cans into pencil containers. We owe it to our children to teach them basic things.

  3. NHS has been run down for years just like our NZ health system.

    Then difference is, NZ has a low population, that more by luck and geography have dodged a bullet with Covid. (so far).

    We do not know what can happen in the future as Covid could get in NZ and we get reinfected with more loss of life than we are seeing, overwhelming NZ hospitals.

    We do know that NZ and UK have been willing slaves to neoliberalism for years and run down our previously world class health systems and relied on other nationals to do everything for them as they want to suppress public service wages and make education about profit not skills.

    The US health system has been known to be completely dysfunctional for years. No surprises they might be the worst hit of all nations with Covid.

    NZ, UK and US’s race to the bottom, is explained by our hospital beds per capita.

    Japan, South Korea, Russia, Germany and Austria have the most hospital beds available per capita.

    China is number 19.

    UK is woefully down the list here at number 35, NZ is 33 and US is at 32. All these countries have less hospital beds per capita than they did in 2013.


    This alarming western world trend has been caught out by the NHS and US system, but so far NZ hospitals have not be inundated.

    The problem with migration led countries like UK, US and NZ that the inputs into the state services have been diverted to private profits or not given at all to create the actual beds and doctors/nurses and medicine and equipment, needed to maintain the same standards that we used to have only a few years ago.

    Instead the neoliberal mantra is to have private profit practice to do everything (for a huge cost), manufacture everything offshore cheaper, and to import in skills shortages and therefore (in theory) save money by not training anybody.

    The neoliberals can then count the private profits of money migrants initially bring into a country, the increase profiteering off goods.

    But somehow the accounts never deducted the public losses (and huge risks) to the public services like health care and infrastructure that need billions of investment to sustain the immediate spikes in population growth often just so a supermarket can avoid giving staff a pay rise, a fast food franchise can sell more franchises, or a billionaire can moneylaunder some money and get a bolthole in another country. All of which don’t actually grow real jobs and wealth.

    The taxpayers of these countries instead of paying their taxes for the health care and services they used to get, instead are subsidising private businesses lowered staff bills, lack of investment into innovation, training, and providing multinational business with a steady stream of new lower waged compliant workers when they fail to retain their previous ones with their poor conditions and zero hour type contracts or zero redundancy rules.

    Less wages also equal less tax take to boot. In NZ it is crazy as for every low waged person, taxes are needed to subsidise their WFF and other benefit top ups.

    What country wants to import in beneficiaries and export profits? Well for whatever reason, NZ does and has been, a storm in the last 6 years.

    The scary thing is that there is almost zero investigation or debate on the subject, (possibly as those who create articles like ‘who owns NZ now” fail to get funding again….)

    You get punished in NZ if you speak out on anything real! Nicky Hager comes to mind with illegal searches!

    Even our political class don’t escape, Hagamann managed to sue Andrew Little twice, and once from beyond the grave!

    Even if they win, aka the above cases, then the damage is already done. People are less likely to speak their mind, again.

    • SaveNZ ” NHS has been run down for years just like our NZ health system. ”

      John Pilger has a current sobering report on Youtube about the privatisation of the NHS, ” Privatisation Profit Impact on Patients”, he names the bod deliberately imported into the UK for the express purpose of privatising the NHS; I think he uses the term ‘privatisation by stealth’, which is how I’ve described what was going on here under the slippery Nats – we are very very lucky that Bill English is out of at least the public health arena now.

      The USA has no universal health care system, and the impact of that is now showing in their terrible cv figures. Our USA relatives talked obsessively of their medical system. A Prof of Surgery in Arizona asked us to bring codeine for his cancer recovering wife with diarrhea, because they couldn’t access it.

      Who owns the NZ MSM is largely why people are too scared or craven to speak out; I think that all Nicky Hager’s reports have been published in book form, preceeded by maximum secrecy to ensure that they did get to see the light of day; VIP’s provided him with confidential information which had never appeared elsewhere, and never would have, because there was/is no elsewhere.

      Illegal police searches aren’t the worst thing that can happen to people who speak up – jobs can go too.

  4. Perhaps the fact that our foods are saturated in monsanto’s ’roundup’ branded glyphosate is of some use to us after all?
    I especially like this little factoid.
    Glyphosate General Fact Sheet – NPIC – Oregon State University.
    ” The sodium salt form of glyphosate is used to regulate plant growth and ripen specific crops. ”
    Is it? I see.
    Just makes me yearn for a good old fashioned bowl of porridge then.
    ( Because some of the foods ‘ripened’ by roundup is oats, barely and wheat.)
    Re above…
    Call me an old fashioned conspiracy theorist if you must but I think the scientists near Wuhan have designed a virus that’s not only time-specific but region-sensitive. ( Unfortunately, someone must have dropped the test tube. )
    I.e. Will be more virilent and more sneaky in, say, Europe, India, the middle east, South East Asia and China.
    Meet Tom Cotton? He has The Wuhan freak-outs big time.
    “Thomas Bryant Cotton is an American attorney, military veteran, and politician serving as the junior United States senator for Arkansas since January 3, 2015. He is a member of the Republican Party. In 2005, he commissioned in the U.S. Army, where he rose to the rank of captain.”
    ” We also know that just a few miles away from [that] food market is China’s only biosafety level four super-laboratory, that researches human infectious diseases.”
    On a personal note: I’ve wrapped myself in tinfoil and wear a tinfoil hat and am standing on the roof in hopes of being abducted by aliens. I need my prostate examined anyway.
    Unfortunately, no luck so far although I do get a quite good picture on Sky.

    • ROFL!- the gift of CB that never stops giving.

      But I like this bit :


      … ”Call me an old fashioned conspiracy theorist if you must but I think the scientists near Wuhan have designed a virus that’s not only ‘TIME-SPECIFIC’ but region-sensitive”…


      I think you’ve got it in one.

  5. A shout out to the nurse from Invercargill !, whether that be from Scotland or its namesake , here in NZ.

    And RIP to Tim Brooke-Taylor of The Goodies fame ,- he was my definite favourite for his satire, parody and send up of the ultra patriotic Royalist believer in the British way of life… L0L!!!

    I hate it when the comedians pass on, as they bring light hearted joy to multitudes which is what makes life worth living and memorable… so here’s a wee tribute.

    The Goodies: A Binge of Goodies

    Its got me baffled with the bizzare way this virus acts among demographics, I guess that’s why its so easy to become paranoiac as to who’s telling the truth and who’s not. One could just as easily say its those who have the more prolific neanderthal genes that are copping it… which would explain the disproportionate numbers of European morality rates…

    Never mind me, I’m just kidding… if you think that’s gallows humour , then just look at what passed for humour during the great waves of the Bubonic Plague, it was pretty fatalistic… all I’m saying is there is a long way to go before we understand even the basics of this thing.

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