Melbourne business district
© Joe Armao
A deserted street in Melbourne's central business district. There must be more sustainable and humane alternatives than draconian shutdowns.
"When the facts change, I change my mind," John Maynard Keynes famously said.

The evidence on COVID-19 has changed since governments imposed hard lockdowns in late March when the virus was so uncertain.

The World Health Organisation now says that serological surveys show the infection fatality ratio has kept falling, so far to between 0.5 and 1 per cent, substantially below the 2-3 per cent originally feared.

The survival rate is above 99 per cent. People aged under 60 are far more likely to die in a road accident, but we don't ban them driving cars.

The second wave of the virus during the European summer is killing far, far fewer people. It is spreading mainly among the young and healthy, while older and vulnerable people are sensibly isolating and health systems are getting better at managing the virus.

France (with a 67 million population, almost triple Australia's) is recording new record COVID-19 case numbers of almost 9000 a day. Yet average daily virus deaths are now between 10 and 20, compared to peak deaths of almost 1000 a day in April.

French President Emmanuel Macron has ruled out another "zero risk" lockdown.

To be sure, COVID-19 is a serious virus that is several times more deadly than a bad flu season.

But the coronavirus is not nearly as lethal as we were initially led to believe when lockdowns were first imposed in late March.

COVID-19 is nowhere near as deadly as the Spanish flu which killed 50 million people 100 years ago. It is more like the Asian flu of 1957 and Hong Kong flu of 1968, which were bad, but did not shut down the entire world.

There must be more sustainable and humane alternatives than draconian shutdowns that are imposing staggering pain on millions of Victorians and the broader Australian community.

Moreover, history shows that some of the world's best leadership decisions arose from admissions that original strategies were flawed and a change of course was necessary.

The Gallipoli and Dunkirk evacuations in World Wars I and II saved the lives of 36,000 and 340,000 allied troops. The retreats gave Australian and British troops an opportunity to reset to fight more crucial battles that proved decisive.

Former prime minister John Howard vowed to "never ever" introduce a goods and services tax, only to later admit tax reform was in the national interest and successfully campaign for a 10 per cent GST.

Facing a 44-point deficit at half-time in the 1970 VFL grand final, legendary Carlton coach Ron Barassi implored his players to handball and play on at every opportunity to run the Collingwood players off their legs. The Blues pulled off the greatest comeback of all time to claim the premiership.

Successful leaders change tack when strategies are proven misguided or premised on less than fulsome information. True leaders have the humility and flexibility to pivot.

During the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, everybody is learning on the run. What seemed like - or perhaps was at the time - the right strategy at the start of the pandemic may no longer be the most prudent or sustainable strategy.

Yet many state leaders are applying the same shutdown tactics from six months ago as if nothing has changed.

Perhaps out of sheer stubbornness, they are locked into a short-term political strategy and not prepared to admit their plans may no longer be fit for purpose.

Most sensible Australians do not object to physical distancing, face masks, hotel quarantine for returned travellers, hygiene, rigorous testing and contact tracing, isolation for suspected positive cases, and restrictions on large group gatherings.

Yet Victoria's Premier, Daniel Andrews, says the government has "no choice" but to impose indefinite hard lockdowns that will run for at least three months, on top of the two months earlier this year.

Other state premiers deem state border closures necessary, even to travellers from states and territories where there are no or very limited known cases of the virus.

They seem unmoved by rising alarm among doctors that lockdowns and virus fear-mongering are causing delays to people being screened for cancer, heart disease and strokes, which will lead to thousands more premature deaths.

The overlooked, mounting costs are staggering to mental health, social disruption, domestic violence, young people's education, jobs and incomes, finite government resources and opportunity for future generations.

Wargaming for a virus did not explore social, mental health, economic, financial and government budget implications of some of the strategies, according to new research by Canadian economists Frank Milne and David Longworth of Queen's University, Covid-19 and the Lack of Public Health and Government Preparation.

In Australia, the average age of people dying with the virus is above 80. Most of the virus deaths are now in aged-care facilities.

People in aged care on average live for two to three years and 60,000 Australians die in nursing homes each year according to the Productivity Commission.

Perhaps a better strategy may be to better protect the old and vulnerable, while allowing the vast majority of Australians to function as a society.

From this point, only politicians with a narrow focus on the virus, hiding behind unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats, would maintain a political strategy that is no longer in the interests of the vast majority of Australians.