Contributed by Joe Montero
Something is terribly wrong when a nation is lulled into the false security that the Covid pandemic is effectively over, and its government hurriedly scales back its response. This is Australia, where the pandemic continues to impose its toll.
The NSW government, leading the nation in the wrong direction as usual, is even going as far as to contemplate lifting the seven-day isolation period for household contacts of those infected by the virus. This is likely to be a test case for the rest of Australia.
These statistics tell a different story. Two thirds of deaths from Covid have occurred in the first few months of this year. This is 4,547 out of the 6,807 who have died since the beginning of the pandemic. And no one is talking about this. At the time of writing, there are 378,831 active cases, 38,925 were infected in the last 14 hours, 3,276 are hospitalized, with 144 suffering in ICU. These are the federal government’s own numbers.
Photo by Kate Geraghty: A patient suffering from Covid in ICU at St Vincents Hospital in Sydney
How much worse is this going to be as the year progresses?
On top of this, there are new variants on the way. Even though it is not known whether these are less or more potent than what we have had so far, no precautions are being taken.
Having just come out of Covid infection myself, I can testify that this is far from a pleasant experience. We sometimes forget that Covid is more than a bunch of statistics. There is a human price to be paid.
Meanwhile, Australian continue to cast all precautions aside, and we actively encouraged to by our leaders to do so.
The cynical may suggest that a big reason is that election campaigning has a higher priority than the health of the nation. Perhaps. But there is no doubt that a great deal of pressure is coming from big business pushing its bottom line as more important than any other consideration. This requires getting everyone back to work. Putting people to work requires the ending of precautions and acceptance of the toll as necessary collateral damage.
By doing this, Australia is being primed for a disaster that could impose even greater economic and health costs.
Photo by Joel Carrett/AAP
It would be much better to put health on top of the list of priorities. This means putting more resources into preventative measures. Distancing and mask wearing should continue into the foreseeable future. There should be less emphasis on mandatory vaccination because it takes attention away from other needed measures and causes division and discrimination. More store should be put on mandatory testing where infection has appeared. Pressure to return to work while still infected should be stopped with adequate compensation by the government.
There is an economic cost in doing this. But the cost of inaction will be much greater in the end.