Covid-19: 100 days no community transmission

There has been 100 days of no detected community transmission of Covid-19 in New Zealand. All the new cases since the beginning of May have come into the country and been contained in isolation or quarantine.

As at 9 August:

  • Number of confirmed cases in New Zealand: 1,219
  • Number of probable cases: 350
  • Number of confirmed and probable cases: 1,569
  • Number of deaths: 22
  • Number of active cases: 23
  • Number of cases currently in hospital: 0

Over the last week there has been 3-5000 tests done a day with no positive results from the community.

This has been a very successful management of Covid here due to the actions of the Ministry of Health and the Government, due to a mostly compliant population, and due to some luck.

While some states and territories in Australia have also managed to restrict Covid very well Melbourne and Victoria have had a bad month after Covid got out into the community and spread rapidly, and the death toll has nearly trebled to 295.

Yesterday’s daily update in Victoria:

  • As of 9 August 2020, the total number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Victoria is 14,659 with 394 new cases diagnosed since yesterday.
  • Of the new cases, 49 are linked to outbreaks or complex cases and 345 are under investigation.
  • There are 2,758 cases that may indicate community transmission, an increase of 174 since yesterday’s report.
  • 634 people are in hospital, including 43 patients in intensive care.  
  • Sadly, there have been 17 new deaths reported since yesterday. To date, 210 people have died from coronavirus (COVID-19) in Victoria.
  • There are 7,854 cases currently active in Victoria. 6,378 people have recovered.
  • More than 1,801,300 tests have been processed – an increase of 41,416 since yesterday.

That looks grim for Victoria, and a concern here – like many Kiwis I have relations living there.

Opening trans-Tasman borders looks some time off at best. I doubt I will be able to get my planned Australian visit in this year.

Worldwide there are still major problems with Covid, with total cases nearing 20 million and 726 thousand recorded deaths.

As at the end of 8 August GMT here are the worst 20 countries (Worldometer):

A quarter of total cases (now over 5 million) and over a fifth of total deaths (165 thousand) have been in the United States.

Brazil has also been bad (now over 100 thousand deaths), and Mexico and India are having increasing problems

Europe had had major problems but Italy, France, Spain, Belgium and the UK seem to have mostly got things under control.

But as resurgences in Victoria and some US states have shown, it is easy for Covid to get put of control.

The impact of Covid is likely to continue at least for the rest of the year and probably well into next year.

I’m very grateful that Covid is under control here, but I’m aware that it is far from over, and the economic impact is likely to increase from September after wage subsidies run out this month.

UK now second to US with Covid-19 deaths

The UK has passed Italy and is now second to the US for recorded Covid deaths. It was predicted weeks ago that the UK would end up with the highest toll in Europe.

Meanwhile New York has revealed 1,700 previously undisclosed Nursing Home deaths.

There are now more than quarter of a million deaths world-wide, with recent signs of just a slight slowing down of deaths (but cases keeps climbing at 80-90,000 a day).

Countries with more than a thousand deaths recorded (with new totals to date for 5 May GMT):

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

BBC: UK reports highest death toll in Europe

  • The latest daily reported death total for the UK (29,427) is now higher than the total for Italy (29,315)
  • The UK has reached this figure faster in its epidemic than Italy, but there are caveats to the comparison
  • Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says there will be no “real verdict” until the pandemic is over
  • Europe’s first-known case may have emerged almost a month earlier than thought, French doctor suggests after re-testing patient

The death count in New York has been bumped up:

National review: New York Reports 1,700 More Coronavirus Deaths at Nursing Homes

New York on Tuesday announced 1,700 previously undisclosed suspected coronavirus deaths that occurred at nursing homes and adult care facilities.

The new data from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration, which includes people who passed away before a lab test could confirm they had coronavirus, brings the state’s death toll from the virus to at least 4,813 since the beginning of March. That number does not include nursing home residents who were transferred to hospital before they died, causing the actual toll of the virus on nursing homes to remain fuzzy.

There are now over seventy thousand deaths recorded in the US,

BBC: A hunt for the ‘missing link’ host species

It was a matter of “when not if” an animal passed the coronavirus from wild bats to humans, scientists say. But it remains unclear whether that animal was sold in the now infamous Wuhan wildlife market in China.

The World Health Organization says that all evidence points to the virus’s natural origin, but some scientists now say it might never be known how the first person was infected.

Global health researchers have, for many years, understood how the trade in wild animals provides a source of species-to-species disease transmission. As life-changing as this particular outbreak has been for so much of the global population, it is actually one of many that the trade has been linked to.

Infectious disease experts agree that, like most emerging human disease, this virus initially jumped undetected across the species barrier.

Donald Trump keeps trying to blame a Chinese laboratory and has promised to release evidence. Others are also promoting this claim – Mike Pompeo: ‘enormous evidence’ coronavirus came from Chinese lab

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, claimed on Sunday there is “enormous evidence” the coronavirus outbreak originated in a Chinese laboratory – but did not provide any of the alleged evidence.

Pompeo said: “There is enormous evidence that that’s where this began,” later adding: “I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.”

But when he was reminded that US intelligence had issued a formal statement noting the opposite – that the scientific consensus was that the virus was not manmade or genetically modified – Pompeo replied: “That’s right. I agree with that.”

BBC: US allies tread lightly around Trump lab claims

UK officials believe it is not possible to be absolutely sure about the origins but point to scientific opinion suggesting the most likely scenario is that it was from a live animal market. However, they add that it is impossible to rule out the theory of an accidental release from a lab without a full investigation.

Their view echoes comments on Tuesday by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said: “We can’t rule out any of these arrangements… but the most likely has been in a wildlife wet market.”

US intelligence, like other countries, has devoted extensive resources to try and understand what has been happening within China, and some of the information could be highly sensitive.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told National Geographic on Monday that he did not entertain the lab theory. The World Health Organization (WHO) also says it has not received any evidence from the US to back up the lab theory.

Intelligence may well point to China having tried to play down or hide details of the initial outbreak, although this is different from hiding the exact origin of the virus.

Trump is still trumping up claims and has reassigned his ‘miracle’ claims.

But that ignores the more important comparison of tests per population.

  • USA: 7.6 million tests (22,988 per million)
  • Germany: 2.5 million testst (30,400 per million)
  • Italy: 2.2 million tests (37,158 per million)
  • Canada: 919,000 tests (24,359 per million)
  • France: 1.1 million tests (16,856 per million)
  • Spain: 1.9 million tests (37,158 per million)
  • Belgium: 3309,552 tests (39,3632 per million)
  • UK: 1.3 million tests (19,026 per million)
  • Australia: 664,756 tests (26,069 per million)
  • New Zealand: 155,928 tests (32,335 per million)

There are 39 countries with a higher testing rate than the US.

It would be a miracle if Trump started to be honest (unless he doesn’t understand the numbers).

Fox News: Coronavirus death toll in US projected to double as restrictions ease, key model predicts

A revised mortality model predicts coronavirus deaths in the U.S. will nearly double to 135,000 through August as states continue to ease social distancing restrictions.

The grim new projection, released by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) Monday, which has helped influence the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak, has jumped up considerably from its April 29 forecast of 72,433 deaths.

the new projection coincides with an internal Trump administration forecast obtained by The New York Times that predicts the daily death toll will reach about 3,000 on June 1. It also projects there will be 200,000 new coronavirus cases every day. This is a significant jump from current numbers of roughly 25,000 new cases and 1,750 deaths each day.

Sources told Fox News that while a significant portion of the data comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the projections of new cases and deaths come from modeling done at Johns Hopkins University.

When asked about the document, White House spokesman Judd Deere said: “This is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting.

“This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed.”

 

 

A plan for trans-Tasman COVID-safe Travel Zone

Free travel around New Zealand looks some time off. The freedom to travel to and from Australia sounds good, but it must be some time away at best.

I’d love to got to Queensland some time to visit family, and also to NT, but both states have different border restrictions. I had resigned myself to not going this year at least (I had to cancel a planned trip at the end of this month).

And with Virgin shutting down their New Zealand operations the flight options and costs will be more difficult.

The trans-Tasman bubble sounds ok in theory, but it could be tricky for some time.

From the Beehive:


Prime Ministers Jacinda Ardern and Scott Morrison announce plans for trans-Tasman COVID-safe Travel Zone

Australia and New Zealand are committed to introducing a trans-Tasman COVID-safe travel zone as soon as it is safe to do so, Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern and Prime Minister the Hon Scott Morrison MP have announced.

The Prime Ministers agreed to commence work on a trans-Tasman COVID-safe travel zone – easing travel restrictions between Australia and New Zealand. Such an arrangement would be put in place once it is safe to do so and necessary health, transport and other protocols had been developed and met, to ensure the protection of public health.

This arrangement recognises that Australia and New Zealand are both successfully addressing the spread of COVID-19.

Any arrangement would need to take into account state and territory movement restrictions.

“Building on our success so far in responding to COVID-19, continuing to protect Australians and New Zealanders remains an absolute priority,” the Prime Ministers said. “We will remain responsive to the health situation as it develops.”

The Prime Ministers welcomed the early interest of business leaders and other stakeholders in a trans-Tasman COVID-safe travel zone. Officials would work closely with these groups, including the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum, as planning developed further.

“A trans-Tasman COVID-safe travel zone would be mutually beneficial, assisting our trade and economic recovery, helping kick-start the tourism and transport sectors, enhancing sporting contacts, and reuniting families and friends.

“We need to be cautious as we progress this initiative. Neither country wants to see the virus rebound so it’s essential any such travel zone is safe. Relaxing travel restrictions at an appropriate time will clearly benefit both countries and demonstrates why getting on top of the virus early is the best strategy for economic recovery,” the Prime Ministers said.

The Prime Ministers noted they had worked closely together on Australia’s and New Zealand’s respective border settings since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Each country had allowed the other’s citizens to transit on their way home, and to enter the other country if they ordinarily lived there.

These measures reflected Australia and New Zealand’s special relationship, our Single Economic Market agenda, and the long history of freedom of movement between the two countries.

“Our relationship is one of family – and our unique travel arrangement means we have a head-start for when it is time to get trans-Tasman travel flowing again,” the Prime Ministers said.

“Once we have established effective travel arrangements across the Tasman, we will also explore opportunities to expand the concept to members of our broader Pacific family, enabling travel between Australia, New Zealand and Pacific island countries. We will work with interested Pacific countries on parameters and arrangements to manage the risks.”


Ardern just said (on 1 News) “New Zealand won’t have open borders to the world for a long time to come”.

Lockdowns extended in UK, Australia, some states of US but others want to reopen

While some lockdowns are being relaxed, others are being extended around the world.

BBC: UK lockdown extended for ‘at least’ three weeks

Lockdown restrictions in the UK will continue for “at least” another three weeks as it tackles the coronavirus outbreak, Dominic Raab has said.

The foreign secretary told the daily No 10 briefing that a review had concluded relaxing the measures now would risk harming public health and the economy.

“We still don’t have the infection rate down as far as we need to,” he said.

It comes as the UK recorded another 861 coronavirus deaths in hospital, taking the total to 13,729.

Mr Raab, deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he recovers from the illness, said: “There is light at the end of the tunnel but we are now at both a delicate and a dangerous stage in this pandemic.

“If we rush to relax the measures that we have in place we would risk wasting all the sacrifices and all the progress that has been made.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said similar when warning about rushing relaxations of restrictions – we won’t find out until Monday if the lockdown here is being scaled back next Thursday.

SkyNews: Australia in lockdown for another four weeks: PM

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says there are “no plans” to change the current lockdown measures for at least another four weeks.

Delivering an update in Canberra on Thursday, Mr Morrison said restrictions would only be eased if Australia met three key conditions: increased testing, better contact tracing, and the ability to lock down localised areas in cases of outbreaks.

“We want to be very clear with Australians, baseline restrictions we have in place at the moment there are no plans to change those for the next four weeks,” he said.

Mr Morrison also clarified what he sees as the end date for the “six month” timeline his government has referred to the response to the pandemic.

Australia’s lockdown conditions are probably more similar to our planned Level 3 lockdown than our current Level 4.

In the US the partisan divide is a problem, with Democrat governors extending lockdowns while republicans want to scale back:

New York’s stay-home order will be extended until May 15, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

Cuomo, during his daily briefing in Albany, said extreme distancing measures that began on March 22 have helped slow the coronavirus infection rate, but he’s not ready to let up on the far-reaching restrictions.

Wisconsin schools will be closed for the rest of the school year and many businesses will stay shuttered until the end of May under action Gov. Tony Evers took Thursday to extend restrictions to contain the coronavirus in the state.

The move will keep hundreds of thousands of school children at home for nearly three months — some receiving no virtual instruction — and comes as key Republican lawmakers are calling for Evers to roll back restrictions, not extend them.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no plans to move forward with a broader reopening of businesses during the COVID-19 emergency.

His spokesman said he will veto the GOP-backed Senate Bill 613, which the General Assembly sent to his desk on Wednesday. The governor plans to continue his aggressive measures to stem the spread of the virus.

Following President Trump’s lead, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday created a task force to plan for the “resurgence and reopening of Florida” from the coronavirus shutdown.

The governor also notably distanced himself from Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees’ comments Monday that social distancing could last as long as a year or more until there was a vaccine.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer faces at least two federal lawsuits challenging her April 9 executive order to combat the coronavirus outbreak, including requirements that residents stay at home and most businesses close.

In complaints filed on Tuesday and Wednesday, several Michigan residents and one business accused the Democratic governor of violating their constitutional rights by imposing her “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order.

The plaintiffs in Wednesday’s lawsuit “reasonably fear that the draconian encroachments on their freedom set forth in this complaint will, unfortunately, become the ‘new norm,’” according to their complaint.

The governors for Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky have formed a partnership to work together on restarting the economies in their states, they said in a statement.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday warned against reopening the country prematurely, saying the public health threat posed by the deadly coronavirus is a greater evil than the current economic hardship facing businesses and workers nationwide.

The Speaker is calling for more widespread testing around the country, to gauge the regional prevalence of the deadly virus, before scaling back locally imposed prevention measures.

“I heard one of them say: ‘Well, people will die — or we’ll open up the economy and people will die — so that’s the lesser of two evils,'” Pelosi said.

The White House plans to release guidelines Thursday to inform states on how to relax coronavirus restrictions and reopen businesses.

President Trump announced the plans during a news conference Wednesday, claiming data shows that the United States has “passed the peak” of COVID-19 cases nationwide.

The decision on what individual states do, however, will fall to governors across the country.

“The battle continues but the data suggests that nationwide we have passed the peak on new cases,” Trump said at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden.

x

Australia begins shut down

Things are moving towards lockdowns in Australia, with Victoria and NSW the first states to move.

Victoria: State to progressively shut down non-essential activity over next 48 hours

Victoria will be shut down over the next 48 hours, with only essential services to remain open.

All schools will be shut from Tuesday, as 67 new coronavirus cases were confirmed overnight.

This is the largest one-day increase yet, and brings the state’s tally to 296 cases, at least three of which were acquired through community transmission.

When questioned about suggestions Victoria was pushing for a total lockdown including all non-essential businesses next Tuesday, the Prime Minister said any further restrictions would be discussed this afternoon at a meeting of a medical expert panel with all states participating.

Berejiklian to push for a full lockdown of non essential services in NSW

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she will push for a full lockdown of non-essential services over the next 48 hours with schools expected to close from Tuesday.

“Tonight I will be informing the national cabinet that NSW will proceed to a more comprehensive shutdown of non-essential services. This will take place over the next 48 hours,” she said.

“Supermarkets, petrol stations, pharmacies, convenience stores, freight and logistics, and home delivery will be among the many services that will remain open.

A decision on the closure of NSW schools needs to go to state cabinet, which will be brought forward to tomorrow morning. Ms Berejikllian will then make an announcement.

South Australia to close borders in response to coronavirus pandemic

Declaring a “major emergency”, South Australian authorities have announced tough new measures which will see the state close its borders to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Premier Steven Marshall said the measures, which would be in place from 4pm on Tuesday, were being taken in the “interest of … public health”.

The State Government will establish 12 border crossings where travellers will be required to sign a declaration about their health and ability to undertake mandatory self-isolation for two weeks.

Northern Territory is also closing their border on Tuesday.

Meanwhile in New Zealand: Doctor group – raise threat level now or risk becoming like Italy

A group of doctors and other health workers say the Government has just days or hours to prevent New Zealand from following the path of Italy.

They’ve begun a petition, urging the Government to raise New Zealand’s covid-19 threat to the highest possible level, effectively locking down the country.

Dr Kelvin Ward, an urgent care physician in Wellington, handed the first lot of signatures to the Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield after the his daily press conference announcing the number of new Covid-19 cases.

“It’s not hyperbolic to say we have only hours to prevent the inevitable horrors we see in countries that waited too long.”

“Over 2200 people from the medical community have banded together to inform this hardworking government that New Zealand has only a short time to avoid disaster on the scale of Italy’s coronavirus epidemic – that’s how fast this virus spreads,” he said.

Medical Professionals to PM Ardern: 4 measures to protect NZ from COVID19

Let’s stand together as experts of the medical community and call for the New Zealand Government to immediately follow the examples of Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, which resulted in successful containment.

Specifically there should be immediate:
1.     Quarantine (not self-isolation) of COVID-19 positive patients
2.     Extensive testing and contact tracing
3.     Self-isolation of all asymptomatic contacts
4.     Mandatory social lockdown

Currently 3,828 signatures.

A few minutes later (5:32 pm) it’s 4,193

Now it’s 38.840 (9:41 pm)

Stern Ardern words on Australian treatment of ex-Kiwis

Jacinda Ardern had some stern words to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Sydney today over Australian treatment of ex-Kiwis living in Australia.

Image

Beehive: PM’s remarks from joint stand-up with PM Morrison

But friendships aren’t just reaffirmed in times of tragedy, they must stand up to the test of politics. And in the face of politics, the New Zealand and Australia relationship is being tested.

We appreciate that many kiwis have taken up the opportunity to live and work in Australia – many more than has happened in reverse. Not every kiwi migrant will be perfect, but evidence shows that the vast majority are providing a net benefit to Australia. They earn more, are more likely to be employed and pay more tax than their Aussie-born counterparts – they are Australia’s best migrants. But rather than them being given security to keep contributing, in return their rights have been eroded.

Simple rights, like assistance from the national disability insurance scheme – even though they pay into the scheme’s levy. Or the ability to join the defence force, or become a federal civil servant. Kiwis want to contribute to the place that is now their home. But they’re not being given the potential to do that to the fullest.

Separate again is the issue of deportations. Australia is well within its rights to deport individuals who break your laws. New Zealand does the same. But we have a simple request. Send back kiwis, genuine kiwis – do not deport your people, and your problems.

I have heard countless cases of individuals who, on any common sense test, identify as Australians.

Just a few weeks ago I met a women who moved to Australia not much older than 1 year old. She told me that she had no connection to our country, but she had three children in Australia. She was in a crisis centre, having returned to a country she did not feel was her own. I have heard from those who work in our judiciary that they are seeing cases before our courts of individuals who are failing attempts to reintegrate and rehabilitate because the success of these programs is reliant on at least some network. These deportees have none.

I am not asking that Australia stops this policy- you have deported more than 2000 individuals and amongst them will be genuine kiwis who do have to learn the consequences of their actions. But amongst those 2000 are individuals who were too young to become criminals on our watch. They were too young to become patched gang members. Too young to be organised criminals. We will own our people. We ask that Australia stop exporting theirs.

hear Ardern here, and what Morrison.

Time will tell whether that makes any difference. I think probably not.

Aussie bushfires continue, record temperatures

The weather here in southern New Zealand over the last few weeks has been very variable and mostly cool for summer – some will see it as crappy weather.

But it is much easier to deal with than the heat (record temperatures yesterday) and bushfires that continue to force evacuations and wreak havoc, especially in the south east in Victoria and New South Wales.

ABC News:

Fires in NSW, Victoria and SA still burning out of control

Bushfires are threatening dozens of communities in Victoria, a southerly cool change is fanning problems in NSW, and more than a third of Kangaroo Island has burned in South Australia.

The blaze that devastated Corryong was pushed back towards the town, and was also impacting Walwa, Tintaldra and Towong, where officials fear properties have been lost.

It comes after a day of searing temperatures in the region.

All-time heat records were broken at Albury Airport (41.6 degrees Celsius), and at Rutherglen (45.6 degrees Celsius).

NSW fires likened to ‘atomic bomb’, Sydney records hottest day ever

Authorities say at least 15 properties have been destroyed during a horror day — in which a new temperature record for the Sydney Basin was set — with fears of further “damage and destruction” from fires through the night.

During the worst of the day there were 13 emergency warnings across the state, while the mercury in Penrith, in Sydney’s west, reached 48.9 degrees Celsius — a new record temperature for the Sydney Basin.

NSW residents were urged to reduce their power usage after bushfires took out transmitters in the Snowy Mountains.

The NSW Rural Fire Service has received preliminary reports of at least 15 properties lost across the fire grounds — including in the towns of Batlow and Talbingo in the NSW Snowy Mountains, and in Manyana on the South Coast.

Fire and Rescue NSW said it responded to reports of 20 people trapped at the caravan park in nearby Bendalong and was able to free them after extinguishing fires in three homes in the suburb.

Heat records continue to be reset around the country

Heat records around Australia continue to tumble, with the ACT today reaching its highest-ever recorded temperature and Penrith reaching a sweltering 48.9 degrees Celsius.

We are grumbling about 15 degrees here but I’d much rather deal with that than temperatures in the forties.

Army choppers evacuate Victorians huddled on sports ground as six remain missing

Army helicopters are used to help dozens of people escape the fierce fire threat in Victoria, where more than 100 properties have been razed and towns remain at risk.

‘Our worst nightmare’: Video shows luxury resort gutted by fire

The Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island was once a luxury resort, but has now been largely reduced to a charred wreck. It is one of many sites of devastation caused by the island’s bushfire disaster.

Two people have died in fires on Kangaroo Island.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been under fire in a different way – his handling of the crisis continues to be criticised.

He returned from Hawaii last week when criticised for holidaying while Australia burns. A couple of days ago news showed him being jeered when visiting fire affected areas – twice he bizarrely forced handshakes with people who were obviously not wanting physical contact with him. Now:

‘Like being sold to at a funeral’: Morrison slammed for running political ads during fire crisis

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been lambasted for releasing videos on social media advertising his Government’s response to the country’s current bushfire crisis.

His mishandling of a crisis is a big contrast to Jacinda Ardern’s empathy and understanding.

Scott Morrison says he won’t be distracted after being abused, snubbed by bushfire survivors

The extent of Saturday’s damage won’t be known until after daylight arrives today in Australia.

RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said the true extent of the damage would not be known until daylight on Sunday.

“Southerly winds have come through, [and there are] a lot of reports of property loss. They won’t know the full extent until tomorrow (Sunday),” he said.

“Predicted weather conditions lived up to prediction; it’s been awful. We’ve seen fires down in the Snowy Mountains that got so big they were putting lightning out 20 to 30 kilometres ahead of the main fire.”

A cold front has moved through but that was the cause of worsening conditions yesterday.

What makes a horror fire danger day?

The extent of the fires:

https://myfirewatch.landgate.wa.gov.au/

Signs of disastrous Australian bushfires evident here

Bushfires continue to wreak havoc in Australia, with the death toll and property damage climbing. It has been a calamitous end to the year in a horrible fire season.

ABC:

My son is visiting – he has talked about how hard it can be to predict the fires. He was close to being caught in one in Western Australia three years ago (four people were caught and killed, one was a farmer going around warning people of the fire).

People on a beach against a dark orange haze.

PHOTO: People in Batemans Bay evacuated to the coastline amid the fire threat. (Twitter: Alastairprior)

Stuff: Naval ships, aircraft ready for Australia bushfire rescues as thousands jump in water to flee flames

The scenes at Mallacoota on Tuesday morning.

 

MARISKA ASCHER
The scenes at Mallacoota on Tuesday morning.

 

And the signs of the fires are reaching us here in New Zealand. It is overcast this morning in Dunedin but the light is eerie – this is likely due to smoke drifting across the Tasman.

Stuff: Massive currents of smoke from Australian fires reach New Zealand

Bushfire smoke from Australia is blowing across the Tasman Sea towards the South Island.

 

Australian elections – are polls bad, or does media misuse them?

Scott Morrison and his National Coalition winning the Australian election is being reported as a shock, in part due to polls predicting a loss.  Are polls a waste of time? Or does media put too much weight on imprecise indications of how people might vote?

I keep saying that at best polls are an approximate indication of how people may vote in the past, and can in no way predict accurate election results in the future. Polls have well known statistical margins of error, but media reporting on them seem to largely ignore this.

Perhaps more accurate ways could be found to predict election results, but I think that a media obsession with trying to predict what will happen in the future is aas much a problem as polling methods.

RNZ – Australia election: Why polls got it so wrong

It was predicted to be the federal election Labor simply couldn’t lose, but after last night’s surprise Coalition win, the opinion poll may struggle to stand the test of time.

Experts say cost cutting and technological change in the polling process is leading to many inaccurate and misleading suggestions.

Nearly all polls predicted Labor leader Bill Shorten would have an easy win with a 51:49 lead over Prime Minister Scott Morrison on a two-party preferred basis.

I dispute that. Polls generally ask something like ‘if an election was held today who would you vote for?’ – perhaps some polls ask ‘who will you vote for on election day?’ but i have never seen that.

And a 2% gap is well within margins of error, which are usually around 3-4%.

51% with a 3% margin of error means there’s a 95% chance of the result being between 48% and 54%.

49% with a 3% margin of error means there’s a 95% chance of the result being between 46% and 52%.

So there is quite an overlap.

In fact, for three years the polls had picked the Opposition to take government.

Again I dispute that. Over the last three years polls tried to measure who people might vote for in the week or two prior to the poll being published.

They are usually whole country polls. Elections in non-MMP countries like Australia and the USA can be decided in just a few key swing electorates or swing states. \being swing electorates they have a history of impressionable swing voters.

Election campaigns are carefully planned to try to change crucial votes right up until election day. Polls are not designed to examine how people mat change their mind at the last minute.

I obviously have ideas about who to vote for in the weeks and days before an election, but I don’t decide for sure until I vote. There must be others who do similar. Polls can’t get inside our heads.

So why exactly were the polls, as ABC political editor Andrew Probyn put it last night, such a “shambles”?

Former Newspoll boss Martin O’Shannessy blamed the flawed forecasting on the fact that many people’s telephone habits have changed.

“Not everybody has a landline and the numbers that are published are incomplete.”

That might be a part of the problem – but that doesn’t address the ‘trying to predict the future’  misrepresentation of polls.

Polls can only be approximate.

I think that media trying to use polls as precise predictors of future voting is the biggest problem here.

Australian election – Morrison returned as Prime Minister

Despite late polls giving a slight advantage to Labor their leader Bill Shorten has conceded to incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Stuff – Bill Shorten concedes defeat, Scott Morrison to return as PM

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has claimed victory in a stunning political “miracle” that has devastated the Labor Party, forced Bill Shorten to step down as its leader and reshaped Australian politics.

Shorten had been favoured in exit polls and made significant gains in some seats in New South Wales and Victoria, while independent candidate Zali Steggall defeated former prime minister Tony Abbott in Warringah.

But his bid to become Australia’s 31st Prime Minister – through a platform of tax, wages and climate policy reform – was in deep trouble with his party suffering damaging defeats in key electorates the party needed to claim power.

Mr Shorten announced he would stand down as Labor leader while staying in Parliament, adding the federal election campaign had been “toxic at times” but that Labor had fought for ambitious change.

The election result was yet to be finalised at the end of election night, with several seats in doubt, but the Coalition defied the opinion polls to hold its ground and win seats from Labor.

With almost three quarters of the vote counted, the Coalition had 74 of the 151 seats in the House of Representatives and was within sight of forming government in its own right or with support in a hung Parliament.

Any result would have been dramatic. When was the last time an Australian Prime Minister won an election?

But:

However, the result shows the nation is divided along geographic and ideological lines with Mr Abbott declaring a political “realignment” with Labor making gains in progressive wealthy seats and the Coalition doing better in working class areas.

A group of key independents could still hold the key to power.

Neither of the major parties are popular in Australia.