The true death toll

Delivered on By Justin Pyvis

Good morning! The Novak Djokovic border fiasco seemingly gets better every day, with more twists and turns in it than a M. Night Shyamalan movie.

The latest drama came after social media posts allegedly showed Novak Djokovic in Belgrade on Christmas Day before flying to Australia from Spain on 4 January. Normally that would be fine, except Djokovic’s travel declaration stated he had not and would not travel for two weeks before his flight to Australia.

Fibbing on your travel declaration is a “serious offence” in Australia, punishable with “jail time or significant fines”.

Meanwhile, ScoMo picked up the blower to Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabiฤ‡ and tried to cool what has somehow become a diplomatic issue. All this while Immigration Minister Alex Hawke still hasn’t ruled out using section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to revoke Djokovic’s visa, kick him out of the country and ban him from entering Australia again for three years.

Entertaining stuff, and the Australian Open hasn’t even started! ๐Ÿฟโ€‹


Reading the tea leaves

Daily % change

AUD/USD

72.1

+0.4%

AUD/CNY

4.59

-0.2%

AU Bond

1.86

-2.5%

US Bond

1.75

-1.9%

ASX200

7,390

-0.8%

S&P500

4,712

+0.9%

Brent (bbl)

83.8

+3.6%

Gold (oz)

1,821

+1.3%

Iron ore (t)

128.9

+2.8%

Bitcoin

42,839

+2.4%

Ethereum

3,241

+5.1%

Note: Brent oil, gold bullion and iron ore prices are the second futures contract. Bond yields are 10-year Treasuries. The S&P500 is a snapshot 30 minutes before close.

At the time of writing theย US S&P500ย was up around 0.9% after Fed chair Jerome Powell said he expected the current Omicron surge to only have a “short-lived” impact on the US economy and that raising interest rates “should not have negative effects on the employment market”.

His comments came after the OECD released inflation data for November 2021 showing prices rising at 5.8% in its nearly 40 member countries, the highest rate in 25 years…

Locally, theย ASX200 fell 0.77% with the pain felt across the board, led by consumer staples (-2.1%) due to the Omicron variant’s impact on sales by forcing so many people into isolation.

There was no better example of that than poultry processor Ingham’s (-6.0%), which warnedย that Omicron’s spread on the east coast is “having a significant impact on the Australian supply chain, operations, logistics and sales performance of Ingham’s and some of its suppliers and customers”.


Food for thought

May 2021 was peak coronavirus, according to The Economist.
May 2021 was peak coronavirus, according to The Economist. Source

The Economist magazine has tried to work out how many people have actually died from COVID-19 over the course of this pandemic.

Using a machine-learning model of “excess deaths” โ€“ that is, “the gap between how many people died in a given region during a given time period, regardless of cause, and how many deaths would have been expected if a particular circumstance had not occurred” โ€“ it concluded that “our single best estimate” is that 19 million people have died of COVID-19 so far.

The official estimate is currently 5.5 million.

As you might expect, its findings vary wildly by region and country. For instance, in Africa The Economist’s estimate is 900% above the official figure. Asia follows closely at 700%, thanks largely to China (+16,000%) where The Economist estimates 730,000 people may have died versus an official count of just 4,636.

Other bastions of democracy are similarly bad, including North Korea (12,000 versus zero officially), Russia (1.1 million versus 309,787 officially), India (5 million versus 483,936 officially) and Nigeria (240,000 versus 3,077 officially).

In terms of the countries hardest hit, The Economist reports that as a share of population Latin America has fared the worst, while “a handful of countries [including Australia] have actually had fewer people die during the pandemic than in previous years”.

You can read the full report here, noting it’s behind a paywall so you might need a 12ft ladder to read it.


Bits and bytes

๐Ÿ’ก The co-founder of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin, penned a reply to Moxie Marlinspike’s essay on Web3’s perceived drift towards Web2’s centralisation model. “I see no technical reason why the future needs to look like the status quo today.”

๐Ÿ“‰ The first weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence survey for the year showed a small drop (-2.2%) in confidence due to rising Omicron cases “causing many problems for businesses with staff forced to isolate due to catching COVID-19 or because of being a close contact”.

๐Ÿ’ธ Australian consumers opened their wallets in a big way in November, with the ABS reporting a 7.9% surge in retail sales, smashing market expectations for a 3.9% increase.

๐Ÿ›‚ The WA government unveiled its new vaccine passport/check-in app, ServiceWA, that for some godforsaken reason involves two other government apps in its buggy, cumbersome set-up process.

๐Ÿ”ฅ Bushfires have broken out yet again in the tourist hotspot of south-west WA, with 150 firefighters on hand and emergency warnings in place for parts of Eagle Bay, Naturaliste and Dunsborough.

๐Ÿ’‰ Pfizer is working on a hybrid vaccine “that combines its original shot with a formulation that shields against the highly transmissible omicron variant”, with a decision whether to develop that or an omicron-specific booster to be made by March.

๐Ÿ”ฌ “Singapore found 11 deaths per 100,000 among people who received Sinovac shots and 7.8 deaths among those with Sinopharm. This number fell to 6.2 deaths for those with shots from Pfizer and 1 fatality in those who were administered the vaccines from Moderna.”

๐Ÿ›‘ Richard Clarida, the Federal Reserve’s vice chair, resigned ahead of schedule “as he faced more scrutiny about trades he made in 2020 as the central bank was poised to rescue financial markets”.

๐Ÿท The worst rise to the top? As of 1 January 2022, “a staggering 68.1% of the the UN Human Rights Council will be dictators and other serial human rights abusers”.

๐Ÿฅฝ Apple reportedly wants nothing to do with the metaverse, and that “the idea of a completely virtual world where users can escape to โ€” like they can in Meta Platforms/Facebooks vision of the future โ€” is off limits from Apple”.

๐Ÿค” A+ trolling. Christopher Key, “a prominent figure in the anti-vax community… is now telling his followers to drink their own urine in order to cure themselves of Covid-19”.

๐ŸŽ  A team of archaeologists and historians concluded that the horses that carried knights into battle “were probably only the size of a modern-day pony”.

๐Ÿ—พ Japan’s government will keep its borders closed until at least the end of February “in a bid to stave off the Omicron variant amid a resurgence in COVID-19 cases in the country”.

โ›“๏ธ China’s government locked down a third city, Anyang, amid an Omicron scare, “raising the number confined to their homes in China to about 20 million people”.

๐Ÿงณ Hong Kong’s government will reportedly ban international transit for people travelling from ‘Group A’, or high-risk countries, which includes Australia and around 150 other countries.

โ˜ข๏ธ Regulator or prohibitor? Since the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission was founded in 1975, “zero new nuclear power plants in the US have ever reached operation”.