‘A chaotic mess’: The only example Australia is giving the world now is how not to deal with Covid | Kerryn Phelps
Where has he gone?
How has Australia gone from being the envy of the world with our best practices in public health measures, low case counts, a prepared healthcare system and a thriving economy to what can only be described as a chaotic mess?
The only example Australia is giving the world now is a warning about what not to do with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine, the so-called “TTIQ”, as well as ventilation and improving the air quality of indoor spaces were essential parts of the answer.
We believed the government would develop a solid strategy for the months and years to come after our 2021 lockdown. The government needed to consider practical and experienced public health experts, epidemiologists and clinicians.
While vaccines were and remain an important part of the response, we have been warned not to rely on vaccines alone.
Over time, our warnings were proven correct when the Omicron variant emerged and the virus infected both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, wiping out medically vulnerable and immunocompromised people and children.
We learned that immunity to the two-dose vaccine was only temporary and that a third dose or “booster” would be required. Even that is likely to decrease within a few months.
Long Covid remains a risk, even in “mild cases”, and even if people are vaccinated.
With New South Wales’ new Premier Dominic Perrottet in charge, Health Director Kerry Chant has been sidelined as the new ‘let it rip’ policy rolled out.
December 15, 2021 was a pivotal moment in the pandemic.
The public were softened with a false account that “Omicron causes mild illness”, “this could be the gift we’ve been waiting for” and “it could end the pandemic”.
Perhaps the most insidious message was the statement that “everyone in Australia is going to get it”. In other words, why bother trying to prevent transmission?
In a previously unimaginable act, the Prime Minister, in a double act with Scott Morrison, announced the lifting of all restrictions, including mandatory mask wear and QR code check-ins.
Despite warnings that the health care system was under pressure and that the holiday season was about to start, the message to the community was: “Get out there and spend, go to the pub and get back to normal. . “
Meanwhile, residents of New South Wales infected with Covid were required to do their own testing, contact tracing and Covid care at home.
“Personal responsibility,” they said.
As the holiday season approaches, many test facilities would be closed with little warning, resulting in queues stretching for miles and waiting times of up to hours. In some cases, sick people waited in their cars overnight. It took five or six days for the results to be released.
It ruined Christmas for many, who couldn’t get a result in time for December 25th.
As the number of cases exploded, a week after they were deleted, QR codes and the wearing of the inner mask were reinstated – but the horse had bolted.
We were all told to go for rapid antigen testing (RAT). The government refused to provide the tests for free as the UK had done, with Morrison saying he “didn’t want to undermine business.”
When a reporter specifically told him that “not everyone can afford rapid antigenic testing,” the Prime Minister casually replied: “Some people can, some not.
In another throwaway comment that won’t age well, he said, “We’re at a point in the pandemic where you just can’t make everything free.”
I thought that was the reason we had a public hospital system, public health units, Medicare, and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme – so basic health care was affordable and accessible to everyone. This is exactly the stage of the pandemic where affordability shouldn’t be a barrier to controlling the disease.
The minimalist approach to controlling the pandemic has hurt businesses more than it has helped, with many cancellations at restaurants and hospitality areas. Supermarkets are now struggling to stock up as employees at every step of the supply chain get sick.
Meanwhile, last year’s toilet paper wars have evolved into this year’s RAT wars, as limited supplies of this precious commodity flew off the shelves at often exorbitant prices. Many people with Covid have self-diagnosed with a RAT but have not had a PCR test. These figures are invisible for the official count of cases.
Citizens are told not to call 000, not to go to the hospital, and to seek treatment if they are 65 or under and have Covid.
People with limited incomes have been left on their own, without even basic home care plans or advice on testing, ventilation and masks.
Medicare is supposed to provide a basic level of health care for all Australians. This includes prevention and public health initiatives.
If the government wanted to limit PCR testing, it could have offered both PCR and RATs at testing sites depending on your situation. Money would be saved and we would still have control over the workload in the community and business would have done better.
The government should have purchased and provided Covid preparedness kits to be delivered to people who tested positive so that they could monitor their condition at home.
Meanwhile, there is no national rapid antigen testing strategy and the government has been widely warned.
In the dying days of 2021, the national cabinet was somewhat persuaded to agree to a redefinition of ‘close contact’ as a person in the same household as a Covid case for more than four hours. There is no science behind this change in definition: Evidence shows that 15 minutes is the time it takes to get infected.
Our leaders tell us not to look at the number of cases and instead look at hospitalizations and intensive care admissions. Meanwhile, hospitalizations and intensive care admissions are escalating, and many who would normally be treated in hospital are being asked to manage their condition at home.
“Letting it rip” will not end the pandemic, nor will it help businesses or the economy. “Letting it rip” will not turn this into an endemic disease with herd immunity. There will be another wave of another variant.
In the absence of government leadership, people will increasingly have to look to credible medical leadership, as political leaders tell Australians to take matters into their own hands.
Preventing transmission is our only way out.