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Since I know how media narratives are formed and spread, I'll explain how the 'NSW is better at covid contact tracing' narrative has been used in the 'it's all Dan's fault' narrative by the Liberals, and how the media (and many in NSW) have bought it, without evidence. A thread👇
Facts that don't fit a narrative just bounce off. So I'll start with some facts in case you think I don't have any evidence to show contact tracing in NSW is broadly comparable to the results in Victoria. This graph shows local transmission in NSW and Vic since pandemic began.
The graphs shows that if you're to judge contact tracers on how many cases they identify as connected to another (which I think is the best measure of overall effectiveness), NSW has 24% unknown and Victoria has 25%. This includes the last two months of crisis in Victoria.
Now, I actually don't know if there are problems with contact tracing methods in Victoria. I am not an expert in such things and also don't have any knowledge of how their methods are different to methods used elsewhere. I don't know what they do differently, so I can't comment.
But just on this evidence, Victoria's total outcomes (even though we know there were at times hundreds of cases a day) are similar to NSW's from beginning of covid pandemic. So if Victoria aren't doing very well, then that means NSW aren't either. Or, they're both doing well.
So now that we have evidence, how did narrative suggesting the only reason Victoria has had a covid outbreak crisis get to a point where I'm seeing journalists (Fran Kelly this morning on RN) and many on twitter repeating this statement as fact? Using it to say NSW are 'better'?
First person I heard accusing Victoria of having contact tracing 'problems' was Scott Morrison. This gives you a hint this narrative started as political attack on Andrews. I assumed it was, because that's what Morrison does. Also his motive is likely abdicating responsibility.
As soon as he said it, it became a fixed narrative used to explain everything that went wrong in Victoria. Narratives simplify complex situations into black and white villains, victims and heroes. By blaming Victoria's health dept on covid crisis, all other factors are forgotten.
These complex factors include many problems faced by every other country in world, and sometimes constitute luck. For instance, a super spreader. Undetected spread worsening amongst people not wanting to get tested as they'll lose their job. Young people with asymptomatic covid.
We also know that once the virus got into aged care home (hi Scott!), and spread amongst staff and residents, the virus got out of control. It's a highly contagious virus, ten times more contagious than it was in first wave. But all this was Dan Andrews' fault, as per narrative.
Every day since Victoria learned they had an 'unacceptable' amount of undetected spread, Dan Andrews has - as I've watched - taken every proactive measure he can think of, with expert advice driving his decision making, to get the virus under control. Let's hope he succeeds!
This is not to say that mistakes haven't been made in Victoria. Hotel quarantine shouldn't have been trusted to private companies who are basically cowboys and didn't train staff properly. Same thing happened in NSW. NSW is by no means perfect, nor are Victoria. No govt is.
The insistence that everything that went wrong in Victoria was Dan's fault drove Murdoch Liberal attacks on Andrews. These attacks entrenched narrative blaming Andrews personally for everything. Remember question he was 'asked' - 'do you take responsibility for all covid deaths?'
What I saw while this has all been going on over the last two months is NSW people buying into this narrative too. Many on twitter have been criticising me for weeks now because I point out NSW are not immune to the same risk factors that caused Victorian undetected spread.
Framing expert Lakoff says that facts that do not align with a worldview will be changed to fit, ignored, rejected, ridiculed and attacked. I sure know about the attack part! My research has shown how facts that don't fit people's narratives are treated in this way - rejected.
So, when I say 'hang on, NSW and Victoria might be more alike than everyone thinks they are', I get told I'm delusional and that NSW are much better at managing covid than Victoria, so they have everything covid related under control. Well, I'm saying this is simplistic and risky
If you're willing to accept complexities of spread of a deadly virus, you will take many more factors into account rather than putting all your eggs in the contact tracing basket. What if Dan Andrews' govt did do reasonable contact tracing, but virus got away from them anyway?
One thing I haven't talked much about is how this 'NSW is better' narrative, started by Morrison and now being accepted as fact (heard Hunt say it yesterday), actually fools the NSW public into putting far too much faith in contact tracing, while ignoring all other risks.
The confidence in which people have been filling my mentions saying 'well NSW are better at contact tracing so we are not going to end up where Victoria has' is truly terrifying. Narratives become so entrenched, people can't see anything but that story. It becomes their truth.
This whole narrative, incidentally, puts Berejiklian in an incredibly hard positions. The narrative was a political attack on Andrews, but what it's done to NSW Premier is to put her in hero frame and to give people a false sense that everything covid in NSW is Premier's doing.
The truth is that despite best contact tracing methods available, covid can still get away from health experts. Have a look at what is happening in South Korea right now if you don't believe me. They had undetected spread despite being hailed as world's best contact tracers.
So, the 'this is all Dan Andrews' fault' political narrative, underpinned by 'Vic failed contact tracing' story - spread by Morrison to deflect from his failings in aged care , is not helping anyone anywhere to actually deal with the complexities and risks of covid effectively.
I remain concerned about level of undetected spread in NSW and will continue to as cases pop up without a known source. NSW now has 32 cases listed source unknown. Each one of those cases is a huge worry. It might not fit your narrative, but you should worry about them too. End.
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