Australia's Experience of Covid, vs The World's Experience of Covid

Australia is one of a handful of countries for which low-to-zero levels of Covid became the norm, in our case because we’re an ‘island continent’, that adopted strict border control, and hotel quarantine for new arrivals.

But in the era of the Delta strain, it’s much harder to keep Covid from spreading into the community. And from what I can see, this was the situation of most countries, even in the pre-Delta stage of the pandemic - once the virus got into a country, it stayed there. For most countries, policy was about merely limiting the number of infections, and zero Covid was not under consideration as a goal.

Watching the number of new daily cases in New South Wales keep inching upwards despite the lockdown, I wonder if Australia is now slipping into the situation that everyone else has been living with - Covid always out there somewhere in the community. We managed to delay this until the era of vaccines, so perhaps we’ve been spared the worst of that experience.

Nonetheless, I’m interested in making this comparison, for multiple reasons. There’s a general human interest in knowing what it’s been like in countries that have been living with Covid within their borders from the beginning. There’s the pragmatic consideration that Australia may be transitioning to such a condition itself, and forewarned is forearmed. In theory, such a comparison might help us improve our own policies, although the government has already declared its roadmap of stages, from now until complete reopening.

It may also be that “living with Delta strain” is distinctly different for a country, compared to “living with the original strain”, because Delta spreads so quickly; so examples from the first 18 months of the pandemic, may have limited value as a source of lessons.


I keep hearing this, that the Delta strain is ‘so much more contagious’ than the original strain, but I haven’t seen any numbers. Eighteen months back, when Covid was first arriving in Europe and America, everyone was shocked how contagious it was, how quickly it spread. And there were lotrsa of ‘superspreader events’ where somebody at one end of a room coughed, and they could almost map how it traveled according to the ventilation system, and people at the other end were sick the next week. We may not have understood the dynamics of closed spaces and open spaces, and it’s still not clear what the optimum ‘social distance’ is. And it’s still not clear what kinds of masks work how well in what circumstances. But the original Covid was considered ‘highly contagious’, more so than a typical cold virus or seasonal flu.

And like I said, I just haven’t seen any attempt at statistics to show that the Delta variant is ‘more contagious.’ The original variant in effect became ‘less contagious’ under very tight lockdown. As long as ‘island countries’, big of small (Australian or Taiwan) had very strict border controls, and every known case was promptly quarantined, it was in some sense ‘not contagious.’ But, as you say, once there are more than some threshold number of cases, once you’ve lost track of some number of active cases, then it is destined to be endemic. In another sense, perhaps the Delta strain is ‘more contagious’ because it’s less severe, and has fewer asymptomatic carriers making it harder to trace systematically. Not really more contagious, just sneakier. Hard to say.

My guess is that what you have starting to happen is Oz was going to happen sooner or later. So far, NZ is able to maintain isolation, but I don’t think they’ll be able to do it forever.

Here is Texas, and a few other red states, even as our hospitals are pretty much full, in the last two weeks of this Delta wave, most people are mostly going about their business. Many businesses require masks, where we had gone maskless for a few months, We’re starting to do more in-person meetings. Since we really don’t know what will keep us safe, we begin to take some unknown risks.


That’s a really good point I had not considered. Thanks.

If delta was no more contagious it wouldn’t have spread so much faster than other strains, the proportion of cases that are delta has rapidly increased.

Of course we’ll also have to live with the virus, as we do the flu, I still rate our chances of being able to contain another outbreak as Kiwi’s are still more unified on fighting the virus than the Aussies - we’ve been forewarned.

norway excess mortality is negative: i was in middle norway during the pandemic, there was no pandemic, i knew people who hurriedly set up a study at the hospital and tried to recruit covid patients, but recruitment was too low. Finland similar, and when the vaccine became available people took it, this is such a contrast to what i see in the uk, australia, usa news. Edit, actually you see the figure here: The Spectator Covid Tracker | Misc | The Spectator negative for finland, norway, denmark, iceland. Everyone says sweden is bad, but that’s because they compare to norway and finland, and everyone looks bad compared to norway and finland


SBS News just had a segment saying that the pandemic of Covid will end in Australia … because Covid will become endemic.

They sprung this on the viewers as if this wasn’t a big shift in sensibility. “By the way, you know how we just spent 18 months aiming to keep Covid as low as possible? Well, now we should get used to Covid being like the flu.” (Just to be clear, this is not a quote, this is my paraphrase.)

Of course, the last few months of Delta-strain Covid continuing to spread in NSW and Victoria despite lockdowns, are what eventually brought about this capitulation. But I wonder how much cognitive dissonance there is, among the classes who have been the buttress of Australia’s Covid strategy.


anyone access that economist article claire retweeted re excess mortality? thread didnt mdntion scandi and i wonder about it. finland didnt seem correct

There is a false of security that comes with such a low case load. This was why vaccine hesitancy was so high. Had government and/or civil society got there act together and got the vaccine then delta would not have spread as rapidly.
Publicity about AZ risk was overblown and safety culture is largely to blame for that.
Then we get stupid politicians grandstanding against each other and we get lockdowns that keep going.
Covid zero is unjustifiable and its time everyone realised it.
Short of vaccine, nothing else will stop it.

Some things are universal, like the police response to protesters.


Compelling argument there.


Didn’t mean to seem quite so cavalier, it’s mostly that I agree with you about excess of safety culture. Covid, apparently, isn’t going away. The vaccines render it less dangerous for older people, and natural immunity seems more robust than the vaccine. So one can get the vaccine, then go play spin the bottle at the covid ward, and get on with ones life, or hide in the basement forever and hope for the best.

Maybe, in a year from now, the people in Sweden will be going about their normal old lives while people in other places are still giving the stink-eye to people who aren’t wearing masks.



Denmark appears to have beaten covid-19 — for now. Here’s how it did it.
“Over 90 percent of Danes trust the national health authorities, our survey data revealed. … Danish authorities promoted compliance with testing and other covid-19 guidelines as a moral obligation— to put it simply, as the right thing to do for each other, building upon the collective approach to beating the pandemic. … In part, this common understanding was facilitated by a general commitment among political elites to follow the science, including medical research, epidemic modeling, economics and behavioral science — including the findings of the HOPE project.” … ie basically: unity

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I would agree with you on all you’ve said.

But this is why I said short of a vaccine, nothing will stop it. But yes, even the vaccine won’t end it totally. It’ll just be a part of life


Fortunately in the USA some states are telling the federal government to go pound sand. Texas, Florida and South Dakota are among other states that have no mask mandates, no vaccine mandates, where everything is open and life goes on. They are using every means available to resist edicts for the senile old man in Washington DC.

Yes, people in those states are getting COVID and some people are dying of COVID but it is not any worse than a flu season.

What is going on in the Western World is mass hysteria.