- Date published:
9:44 am, January 6th, 2022 - 132 comments
Categories: australian politics, covid-19, Environment, health, jacinda ardern, long covid, science, uk politics, uncategorized, us politics - Tags:
Yesterday in Aotearoa New Zealand there were reported 17 new Covid community cases. 17.
Take a bow everyone.
Meanwhile in Australia there were more than 61,000 new cases reported and the actual number is likely to be much higher. New South Wales is the state feeling the most pressure and reported over 35,000 new daily cases. Rapid Antigen Tests are almost impossible to purchase and PCR tests are preserved for those likely to need to be hospitalised. You get the feeling the spread of the disease is out of control and describing the situation as a shambolic mess is not a stretch.
There have been a couple of absolute clangers from Conservative Politicians which suggest, very strongly, that the policy is let it rip.
Former Prime Minister and budgie smuggler wearer Tony Abbott thought that the economic cost of saving lives was too high and some COVID-19 victims should have been left to die because of the economic cost.
Tony Abbott has suggested that some COVID-19 victims should have been left to die because of the economic cost of lockdown measures. pic.twitter.com/uZRT01xgz0
— SBS News (@SBSNews) September 2, 2020
And showing the right’s complete obsession with money Scotty from Advertising said that handing out free RAT tests was a bad thing because it would hurt retailers’ bottom lines. It is a rare thing seeing a politician openly opposing a very basic health measure that even Boris Johnson implemented because a few retailers may miss out on some profit.
Australian GP Kerryn Phelps has roasted the Australian Authority’s response to Omicron. This is as controlled a piece of outright angry writing as you are likely to ever read. Clearly the replacement of Gladys Berejiklian by Dominic Perrottet as NSW premier was a retrograde step. Gladys may have had a lot of faults, including an allegation of corruptly helping her boyfriend with the use of state funding for local infrastructure with what appears to be a clear desire to improve his election chances. But at least she cared about her fellow Australians. Interestingly Morrison has condemned her behaviour by proposing that she joins the Federal Parliament.
Phelps really does not hold back:
15 December 2021 was a pivotal moment in the pandemic.
The population was softened up with a false narrative that “Omicron causes mild disease”, “this could be the gift we have been waiting for”, and “this could end the pandemic”.
Perhaps the most insidious piece of messaging was the pronouncement that “everyone in Australia is going to get it”. In other words, why bother trying to prevent transmission?
In one previously unimaginable act, the premier, in a double act with Scott Morrison, announced a lifting of all restrictions including mandatory mask wearing and QR code check-ins.
Despite the warnings that the health system was under pressure and that party season was about to kick off, the message to the community was: “Go out there and spend, head to the pub and get back to normal.”
Meanwhile, Covid-infected NSW residents were expected to do their own testing, contact tracing, and home Covid care.
“Personal responsibility,” they said.
As the holiday period approached, many testing facilities would be closed down with little warning, leading to queues stretching for kilometres and waiting times blowing out to hours. In some cases, ill people waited in their cars overnight. Results were taking five or six days to be reported.
It ruined Christmas for many, who could not get a result in time for 25 December.
As case numbers exploded, a week after they were removed, QR codes and indoor mask wearing were reinstated – but the horse had bolted.
We were all told to go and get rapid antigen tests. The government resisted providing the tests for free as the UK had done, with Morrison saying he “did not want to undercut businesses”.
When a journalist specifically put to him that “not everyone can afford rapid antigen tests”, the PM casually replied: “Some people can, some people can’t.”
In another throwaway comment that will not age well, he said: “We’re at a stage of the pandemic where you just can’t make everything free.”
She concludes by saying this:
We are told by our leaders not to look at the case numbers, and to look at hospitalisations and ICU admissions instead. Meanwhile, hospitalisations and ICU admissions are escalating and many who would normally be treated in hospital are being told to manage their condition at home.
“Letting it rip” will not end the pandemic, nor will it help business 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 leadership from the government, people will need to increasingly look to credible medical leadership, as political leaders tell Australians to take matters into their own hands.
Elsewhere in the world Omicron continues to spread with an ease that takes your breath away. South Africa’s infection rate has peaked but its death rate is increasing. The United States has reported over a million cases in a day, and England and France have spiked over 200,000 daily cases.
It does appear that Omicron’s effects are milder, at least as far as the initial infection. But as pointed out by Weka in this post the effects of long Covid are still not properly understood.
The biggest problem that the world faces is not indifference to mask wearing or vaccine deniers but Vaccination inequity and an indifference to medical and scientific advice. As stated by the WHO’s Mike Ryan:
Time and time again governments have tried to get back to normal and have overshot that runway by opening up too early. Releasing restrictions too early. They haven’t really convinced people or empowered people to continue with these basic measures to reduce the risk of infection. I think that’s been a problem, the whole way through the pandemic.
I don’t mean getting rid of lockdowns. To me lockdowns have been last resort measures in most cases. Many countries in the East have managed to forgo lockdowns. But they’ve maintained quite strict measures in terms of mask wearing, in terms of crowds, in terms of testing and other stuff. So they’ve taken a much more comprehensive, layered strategy. They’ve maintained an intensity of control measures without ever going for full lockdown, without ever going for full open. They’ve taken the corner without under- or over-steering. They’ve gotten people to buy into the idea that it’s going to take a long time and it’s going to have to be a sustained effort. I think if everyone had done that maybe we’d be in a better place.
But I think for me just personally as a public health physician, the biggest tragedy has been the vaccine equity issue. It really has been horrific. Horrific. The world just has not ever come to terms with the fact that vaccinating the most vulnerable people first would have been a better bet, not only epidemiologically but just from an equity perspective.
I know that there are many who see Omicron as a blessing and a chance for us to break clear of the shackles that Covid has put on the world during the past two years. All that I would say however is that we should take a deep breath, keep the MIQ defences up and see what happens overseas.
And letting it rip may result in a further variation developing. One with Omicron’s contagious nature but not its supposed benign effect.
And right now National and its cheer leaders including John Key, Ian Taylor and Russell Coutts not to mention Newstalk ZB’s bevy of opinionated idiots have been proven to be wrong, completely wrong, on the issue yet again. Who can forget this clanger from Hosking?
It may be that Omicron is a very good thing. But before betting my elderly and/or health compromised relatives futures on this or threatening the overwhelming of our health system I prefer that our Government takes a deep breath, maintains protective measures, and watches and learns from what is happening overseas. Which it is doing.