Covid-19 has not been defeated and we must do better

Contributed from Victoria

It looks like Australia is headed into another Covid-19 lockdown. This shouldn’t surprise to anyone. The infection has proven to be harder to irradicate than was first thought, and it doesn’t help that, all too often, the pandemic has been not been dealt with properly.

Then there has been mutation, resulting in more potent strains.

Covid-19 was once thought the infection originated from China. New evidence suggests this is not likely the case. it is now known to have existed in a number of other countries before the breakout, after it mutated into something more deadly.

Chances are we are far from having seen the last of it.

That Australia is entering a new wave is not the fault of government failure, although there have been significant shortcomings in the way it has handled so far.

Going Back to the beginning of the first outbreak. Government action was slow to start. At least it did start, and Australia did better than some other countries.

Luckily, we also had a few advantages. Australia is an isolated island, it begun during our summer instead of winter, there is a reasonably advanced medical infrastructure. There are long distances between the major population centres.

Photo by Sandra Sanders/ Reuters: Response team in Melbourne last year. Health workers and emergency services did more to protect us than anyone else

A downside is that some elements sought to politicise the outbreak, promoted several ridiculous conspiracy theories, and insisted that the whole thing was fake. They sought to spread confusion to hamper the application of measures that protect people’s health.

Reconciling the demand of business to keep the doors open and the need to protect people’s health has been the main point of conflict. Bowing to short-term profit and taking chances with loosening protective measures, has opened some doors for infections to return.

The politicisation of the pandemic has got in the way of a joint global effort, and The experience of those countries that have been most successful in overcoming the pandemic has been ignored. Evryone is paying the price for this.

Photo by James D Morgan/Getty: Sign outside pub in Sydney

Australia is credited with being one of the most successful. This is not true, when judged as a percentage of the population. With near 1,000 deaths, Australia ranks quite high. The United Kingdom is the worst, followed by the United Sates, Italy, Spain, Brazil, France, and a few other countries. Australia falls in the next tier.

Asia did much better, with exception of India. China’s rate in terms of the size of the population was quite low.  They are not the only ones. The secret is how they confronted the threat. They imposed a total lockdown quickly.

Armies of health workers and volunteers were recruited into the battle. Every building and every street were routinely disinfected. Medical services were brought to people’s homes, instead of asking them to go to a point for testing. It was thought it is much better to keep people at home.

When a new outbreak was found, the community where it took place was isolated and medical teams went from home to home to check everyone.  

Australia’s response looks half hearted in comparison.

Changing this requires both a government prepared to do everything it can and a community that has sufficient trust in the government, which admittedly, is a hard ask in Australia.

Covid-19 is going to be with us for a long time

The politicisation of the pandemic has hampered the rollout of inoculations. Australia has joined that group of nations that want to impose their solutions and only want vaccines coming from the ‘right’ places.

It happens that the highest points go to three Chinese, one Russian and a German alternative. But because most of these come from the ‘political enemy’ and certain pharma companies to corner the market, Australians are to be denied access. It remains these are the vaccines that have been most tested and have so far produced the best results.

This is why most countries are opting to try the broad range available. Doing this, maximises the chances of success.

More must be done to determine why society has become so vulnerable to pandemics. Evidence is suggesting that this is likely to be a combination of global warming and human encroachment on the few remaining wild habitats, creating conditions for the generation and transfer of new infections.

The government is therefore taking one more risk with the health of Australians, and it seems, Canberra is moving further and further away from taking responsibility. Last year there was some semblance of a national strategy. This year there is none. Unless this changes, we are heading for serious trouble.  

The sad reality is that this is not over by a long shot. More are going to get sick and more are going to die. This can be limited, so long as the nation lifts its game.

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