Source: G News Author: Wenci and Banshan Photo: G News via The Australian

Gnews invited Craig Kelly to comment on a few hotly debated topics. Craig Kelly is a member of the Australian House of Representatives and represents the electorate of Hughes, in New South Wales, for the Liberal Party of Australia.

Key points from Craig’s comments:

  • There is no enough evidence for the Victoria state government to withdraw the discretional off-the-label use of HCQ by doctors
  • Hydroxychloroquine studies that National COVID Clinic Evidence Taskforce review were not conducted in the same manner that doctors reported success with the drug
  • The Chinese Communist Party should fully cooperate with international authorities to determine the actual cause of the COVID-19, and hold relevant people accountable for the mistake
  • Health, social and economic impact of lock-down to be properly analysed and these shall be weighed up to make right decisions 

Australia’s strategy to tackle COVID-19

Australia confirmed the first COVID-19 case in Victoria on 25 January 2020. The patient, a man from Wuhan, flew to Melbourne from Guangdong on 19 Jan. Overnight 25 Jan, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (“DFAT”) raised the level of travel advice for Wuhan and Hubei Province in China to ‘level 4 – do not travel’. Border measures are in place to detect travellers who are unwell coming into the country. However the infected cases in Australia continued to increase.

On 20 Mar 2020, Australia is closing its border to all non-citizens and non-residents.  Recent significant increase in cases and deaths in Victoria have become a national worry and Victoria has declared state of disaster on 2 August 2020. As of 17 August 2020, there are more than 23,000 confirmed cases and nearly 430 deaths in Australia, with 1.7% death rate (over confirmed cases) compared with global death rate of 3.6%[1].

Though Australia seems better off than a lot of countries, in a recent survey of hundreds of frontline doctors, more than 8 in 10 doctors surveyed said that they were anxious about the amount of PPE provided[2]. Is Australia’s strategy in tackling COVID-19 adequate?

Mr Kelly commented that the early block of the international flights is very important and the initial lockdown is also very wise. Comparing to New Zealand, Australia didn’t have harsh lockdown hence less damage to the economy. It is important to keep things open. There wasn’t an issue with the supply of PPE over the country initially. It was addressed by Health Minister Greg Hunt who did a good job to make sure Australia has adequate PPE stock. There are also plans in place we are able to recruit the retired medical staff and bring people who are currently in training forward to the frontline. For an organisational perspective Australia has done a great job.

Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ)

There are mounting evidences showing HCQ in prevention and early treatment[3] in US and India[4]. HCQ is given to nursing mothers, pregnant women, children and it has already been approved in by FDA as EUA for hospitalised treatment on the 28th March 2020 without randomised control requirement.

Many frontline doctors have come forward to testify the effectiveness of HCQ (Dr. Zev Zelenko from NY, Dr. Simone Gold from LA, Dr. Stella Immanuel and Dr. Richard Urso from Huston). HCQ is also discussed in Steve Bannon’s WarRoom pandemic, joined by the a few renowned scientists[5].

Clive Palmer acquired 32.9 million dosage of HCQ in March 2020 and donated to Australian stock pile[6]. However there are many experts and politicians disputing about COVID-19. Why is that and what stops Australian from buy HCQ as an emergency use over the counter? Can HCQ be used as a preventative mean to open up economy?

Mr Kelly commented that some countries the drug can be purchased over the counter. However you can only buy HCQ with prescription in Australia and doctors are currently prohibited from supplying or writing prescription to treat COVID patients, with the exception of the provision for the specialists during clinical trials. If the doctor prescribes you HCQ for COVID, in Queensland the doctor could go to the jail.  Penalty differs per state ruling.

In relation to the effectiveness of the HCQ, Mr Kelly said there are many observational trials. However there is no double blind clinical trial that shows it is effective or ineffective. The advocates for the drug reported success that the drug must be treated with the patients (1) within first 5-7 days (2) combination with Azithromycin. There is no clinical trial that gives the combination of the drugs within first 5-7 days.

The nine studies that National COVID Clinic Evidence Taskforce reviewed were not using the drug in the same manner that advocates of the drug reported success with it.

Previously the drug was available for doctor to use off the label for treatment for malaria, at doctor’s discretion. And the discretion has been withdrawn by state government. Mr Kelly’s argument is there is no enough evidence for that discretion to be withdrawn. Doctor and patient relationship should be at primacy. If the heavy-handed government comes down to interfere relationship, there needs to be overwhelming evidence. Without the overwhelming evidence, the heavy-handed government is essentially interfering free independent doctor-patient right. 

Mr Kelly has been making continuous effort in posting on Facebook about media misleading information on HCQ.

Origin of the virus

Dr. Li-Meng Yan, Chinese virologist and Whistleblower, spoke at Newsmax[7] that the virus was modified by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) based on Zhoushan bat coronavirus discovered and owned by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. US Senate on 20 July 2020 has introduced the Civil Justice for victim of COVID Act to allow American to sue China in federal court for its role in causing the coronavirus pandemic[8]. What is your view on the origin of the virus? Will Australian government follow US and hold the CCP accountable for its mishandling and cover-up of the initial outbreak?

Mr Kelly commented there are many different views on this. The questions whether it is coming from China or not, from wet market or a lab, or did the Chinese communist party do or could’ve done a lot more about stopping it, all these questions will be determined over time. And obviously we hope China will have full cooperation with International authorities to determine what the actual cause of it.

Mr Kelly further commented that asking the CCP for compensation might be a very difficult legal case to pursue. However the biggest risk for the CCP is the public opinion. The CCP might not worry about it but it is very important. They need to do what they can to make sure the investigation into the outbreak and the origin of the virus are done, and to hold people accountable for the mistakes, and the chance of something happening again are minimised. This won’t be the last global pandemic, there will be future pandemic in 10 or 20 years as we learnt from the history. And we have to make sure whatever lessons we can learn from this pandemic apply to the pandemic happens next time.

A way out of the pandemic

Mr Kelly commented that we can’t have continuous locking down forever. Victoria can’t have a permanent state of emergency forever. The most important thing is full economic, health and social costs of the lockdown need to be properly analysed. Ultimately we need to make sure the costs are not greater of the costs of locking down. The benefit of the lock down is to save lives and less people captured the virus.

If you do lock down, we’ve seen 1/3 increase in potential self-harm, and people don’t go to the medical specialist like they normally do, which could cause 80,000 lives in the years to come, according to some UK report, all of which need to be calculated.

You will see a lower prosperous society in the future, less resources to put into frontline medical services and medical research. Every aspect of the lockdown has very significant health, social and economic impacts. Need to make sure we make the right decision and weighing those up.

[1] Calculated from the data published on WHO updated 17 August 2020.

Related: Palmer buys 32,900,000 doses of Hydroxychloroquine for Australians

HCQ actually does work! You read it here first: Australian Spectator

Outsiders: Doctors, patients should be free to decide on whether to take hydroxychloroquine

Covid-19 strategies in Sweden & Switzerland put our policy makers to shame

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