With the AFL doggedly charging ahead with its 2020 men’s season, commencing last night with a Richmond/Carlton clash that took place at an eerily empty MCG, footy media’s deluge of pre- and post-game coverage is officially back. And with it comes the inglorious return of the shockingly awful takes from the Old Boys Bubble. But seldom has there ever been a worse, or potentially more dangerous take than the one aired by Eddie McGuire on FOX FOOTY yesterday evening.
With footy currently grappling with the distinctly unique coronavirus global pandemic, it seemed inevitable that on-air panellists – none of whom, it should be very clearly stated, are public health experts – would broach the subject in some capacity. McGuire, however, took it upon himself to broadcast several coronavirus response theories to the public as fact, none of which are substantiated or accepted by the wider scientific community.
McGuire and the rest of his FOX FOOTY panel members, including former players Jonathan Brown, Nick Riewoldt, and Garry Lyon, were discussing the AFL’s decision to press on with the season when virtually all other major global sporting leagues have temporarily shut up shop. McGuire’s response to this was blood-boiling.
With no citation and little more than “This Is My Opinion”-style bravado, McGuire espoused both herd immunity and seasonal eradication as factors of the public health response to coronavirus. Both of these are unsubstantiated at best, and harmful at worst.
I’m still mad about this. pic.twitter.com/i6nHZd2QE8
— Cam Tyeson (@camtyeson) March 19, 2020
Firstly, McGuire stated that “one of the theories is that we’re actually in summer still – it’s 30 degrees in Melbourne tonight – as opposed to the northern hemisphere, who are coming out of their winter, and have been through the depths of it, and were right in the midst of it.”
Not enough is known about the novel coronavirus at this stage to make any sort of assertion that warmer weather will ease the spread of the virus, or that colder weather may exacerbate it. Certainly not enough is known about it for the former host of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire to spout shit along those lines on a bloody football broadcast.
The idea of coronavirus seasonality stems largely from the now-frequently disproven myth that it’s “just the flu,” and that there exists a distinct flu season that comes and goes with winter.
Leading virologists and epidemiologists simply do not know enough about coronavirus to say whether warming or cooling weather will affect its spread. Coronavirus has been observed across the globe in multiple climates and seasons already, which doesn’t indicate much about its seasonal vulnerability. David Heymann from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine warned against doing the exact thing that Eddie McGuire did in the above quote, telling National Geographic “The risk of making predictions without an evidence base is that they could, if they prove to be wrong, be taken as verity and give a false security.”
More worryingly, McGuire’s second claim asserted “it’s probably going to be essential that 60% of the population at some stage get exposed to the coronavirus so that we build up the necessary resistance to actually be able to function down the road.”
That refers to the concept of herd immunity – that if a large section of the population catches the virus, its impacts will diminish as it has less hosts to infect – and it’s a lovely concept provided you’re real chill with a hell of a lot of people dying.
The scientific consensus states that social distancing, border control, and developing a vaccine are the best weapons in fighting coronavirus. Nevertheless that hasn’t stopped some rank lunatic countries from trying to adopt herd immunity policies like, for example, the United Kingdom.
Standard best practice herd immunity involves vaccinating large swathes of the population, rather than exposing people to the virus willy nilly. It’s why children are given a simple injection to protect them against measles, mumps and rubella, rather than hospitals providing rugs caked in the shit so newborns can roll around in it for a hot minute.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s initial plan, baffling as it may be, involved protecting elderly and vulnerable people as best they can (read: shutting them off from the rest of the world) while allowing the virus to run rampant through large tracts of younger generations, thus achieving herd immunity in the dumbest way possible.
Those policies were swiftly abandoned amid howls of uproar due to two factors: One, there’s no evidence yet that those people who contract coronavirus and subsequently recover develop an immunity to it. And two, adopting that policy would mean the UK Government was casually ok with a potential death toll of around 250,000.
The point I’m ultimately making here, is that in a largely unknown situation where information is changing on a minute-by-minute basis, the spread of misinformation on any level – particularly on live TV with a captive audience of hundreds of thousands – is the fuel that’s driving fear-based behaviours like panic buying and public angst.
It’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible, it’s lazy journalism, and Eddie McGuire needs to shut the fuck up.