“Heartless”: Expert sparks fury by “advocating” for Australian deaths

Economist Gigi Foster has come under fire for talking about "body counts" on Monday night’s episode of Q&A and championing for Australia to replicate Sweden's relaxed response to the coronavirus pandemic.

When her University of New South Wales colleague Adjunct Professor Bill Bowtell, who is also a strategic health adviser, told the panel he felt the virus could be eliminated from Australia, Professor Foster called his opinion an "unrealistic vision".

She then used Sweden as an example by pointing out the Nordic nation chose not to impose lockdowns.

She also said that social distancing and working from home have been completely voluntary.

"I think that Australia can follow in the footsteps of many other countries in the world, some of which have not had lockdowns as strict as we have had here, such as again, Sweden — and look at the death tolls in those countries," Professor Foster said.

Q&A host Hamish Macdonald however would not let this fly and said: “Let me pull you up there. Sweden has had 5,697 deaths.

"Are you comfortable with advocating that for Australia?"

Professor Foster responded with: "I'm comfortable with saying let's be data driven in our policy choices and look at what's happened in other countries."

However Macdonald said the strategy Sweden has implemented holds no advantages, citing the country’s GDP (down 7 per cent) and unemployment rate (9 per cent).

"How can you point to Sweden and say there's the model?" he asked.

Professor Foster responded: "If you look at what's happening to those death counts around the world, in every country that has had a proper first wave, [they are] somewhere between 0.5 per cent and 0.1 per cent of the population.

"That translates in Australia to about 12,000 to 25,000 deaths for people who are predominantly elderly or immunocompromised.

"But it's a body count."

Macdonald said her comment was "heartless" and read out Victoria's daily coronavirus statistics.

"[In] Victoria today, there was six further deaths announced, there are 44 people in ICU, 245 people in hospital," he said

Professor Foster replied by saying it is “horrible” but when asked by the show’s host why she was “advocating for them to die,” she pointedly refused the suggestion.

"I'm not advocating for anybody to die, I am advocating for the least people to die as possible," Professor Foster said.

"What about everything else that kills people and makes them suffer?

"Have we even thought about the cost of mental stress and anguish, the unemployment effects?"

Professor Bowtell said the “Swedish example is a fiasco”.

"The idea of locking old people in aged care homes, not allowing them to be treated in hospitals — as became the norm in Sweden — is or should be abhorrent.

"You cannot segment out one sector of the population and ask them to undergo great misery, suffering, death in the interests — spurious interests — of saying all the rest of us will benefit.

"That's not how societies work."

This article originally appeared on Over60.