OzSage urging rethink on COVID commentary

Burnet Institute

07 February, 2022

Australian governments are being urged to act immediately to decrease the death rate from COVID-19 by OzSage, a multi-disciplinary network of Australian experts formed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

OzSage is also calling for the broader conversation around deaths from COVID-19 to be more respectful, for mortality data to be disclosed objectively, and for commentary on the causes of death to be conducted with authenticity and integrity.

“The community needs clear and transparent information on the direct impacts of COVID-19, which includes deaths,” Professor Margaret Hellard AM, Burnet Institute Deputy Director and OzSage Executive member said.

“They need clear and transparent information on the indirect health, mental health and social impacts of COVID-19 to understand both the positive and negative impacts of public health measures aimed at stopping high level of transmission.”

OzSage is urging a rethink on references to the ages or comorbidities of people who have died from COVID-19.

“These people would not have died if they were not infected with COVID-19. Every life is valuable and the only way to prevent further loss of life is to face up to the need to change tack,” a statement from OzSage said.

OzSage argues there are many smart, easy things we can do to reduce transmission and the death toll while retaining our freedoms, and has made a number of recommendations about mitigating and reporting deaths from COVID-19 including:

  • Validated mortality data should be reported independently and regularly;
  • Datasets should be standardised across jurisdictions with a minimum set of parameters (breakdown by age, State, vaccination status, number of vaccine doses and place of death – hospital or home);
  • Factors that contribute to severe COVID-19 disease and mortality such as underlying conditions should not be used as excuses for failures in preventing deaths; and
  • Narratives about the cause of death should not over-emphasise any contributing factor, such as underlying conditions or age.

“In the end, what really matters is doing all we can to minimise preventable deaths,” Burnet Institute Director and CEO and OzSage member, Professor Brendan Crabb AC, said.

“The only acceptable number is as low as we can reasonably go.”

“There is substantial room for improvement on vaccination rates, high quality mask access and use, functional testing and isolation regimens, support packages for those in most need and, most especially, in airborne mitigation strategies.

“Only when we have done all we can to put these measures in place, including with an embedded culture of ongoing improvement and rapid incorporation of new knowledge and tools, can we say we’ve done all we can to minimise the COVID-19 death rate.

“Two thousand deaths in just over one month is way too many deaths.”

OzSage aims to offer well-researched and robustly debated independent expert advice as an additional resource for governments, business, community and non-government agencies to achieve an exit strategy with the best possible health, social and economic outcomes.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor Margaret Hellard AM

Deputy Director, Programs; Adjunct Professor, Monash University, DEPM.




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