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Winter in Australia

Summary:
A few months back, I pointed out that Australia was handling the Covid-19 epidemic far better than the US or Canada. At the time, several people told me that this was because it was summer in Australia and winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Now it’s June, so it’s worth taking another look at the relative performance of Australia and the US. Let’s consider Florida, a very warm state with a slightly lower population than Australia. During June, Florida has been averaging roughly 35 Covid-19 deaths per day: How about Australia?  It turned out that during June (a winter month in Australia), the death rate has averaged zero.  Indeed there hasn’t been a single Covid-19 death in four weeks: So much for the theory that Australia was doing better due to warm weather. A

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A few months back, I pointed out that Australia was handling the Covid-19 epidemic far better than the US or Canada. At the time, several people told me that this was because it was summer in Australia and winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

Now it’s June, so it’s worth taking another look at the relative performance of Australia and the US. Let’s consider Florida, a very warm state with a slightly lower population than Australia. During June, Florida has been averaging roughly 35 Covid-19 deaths per day:

Winter in Australia

How about Australia?  It turned out that during June (a winter month in Australia), the death rate has averaged zero.  Indeed there hasn’t been a single Covid-19 death in four weeks:

Winter in Australia

So much for the theory that Australia was doing better due to warm weather.

A new study suggests that between 70% and 99% of America’s 120,000 Covid-19 deaths could have been prevented with more sensible policies.  This table shows the death rate in various countries, scaled up to the US population:

Winter in Australia

I wouldn’t put too much weight on these specific estimates, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to argue that the US (and European) response to Covid-19 was sensible.  The fact that Australia continues to average zero deaths even during their winter is a sign that the warm weather excuse doesn’t hold up.  Something went very, very wrong in the US.

We had plenty of warning in January and February to prepare for the epidemic, and did almost nothing.  Yes, it’s possible that none of this matters.  Maybe thousands more Australians will die from Covid-19 before a vaccine is developed.  But I wouldn’t necessarily count on that happening.

Scott Sumner
Scott B. Sumner is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, the Director of the Program on Monetary Policy at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and an economist who teaches at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. His economics blog, The Money Illusion, popularized the idea of nominal GDP targeting, which says that the Fed should target nominal GDP—i.e., real GDP growth plus the rate of inflation—to better "induce the correct level of business investment". In May 2012, Chicago Fed President Charles L. Evans became the first sitting member of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to endorse the idea.

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