By Adam Carlton
The risk is real. It is now clear that the COVID pandemic is far from mover. This is nobody’s fault; Australia could be responding better. Australia has been lucky so far and escaped lightly, compared to other countries.
There is no guarantee this luck will continue to hold out. The vaccine rollout has been a shambles in many ways. The hasty purchase of the AstraZeneka and Pfizer vaccines, and guaranteeing those companies a monopoly in Australia is questionable. It was more about business opportunity, than meeting the health needs of Australians. The rollout has been a disgrace. Only a small part of the population has been vaccinated, and there are serious problems with supply.
A bigger problem has been the failure of a proper national response. Separate state and territory responses is not good enough. Not the best way to meet the challenge of a crisis affecting the whole of Australia. This requires the political leadership for a nationally led effort. This leadership has been missing.
It was always on the cards that a more contagious mutation would arrive. This has happened with the Delta strain, and it demands that Australia does better.
The data shows that Delta is twice as contagious as the original virus, and it has turned up across the country. The new COVID variant has been found in more than 80 countries, and this raises the risk of its importation into Australia. More rigorous preventative measures are needed.
We don’t know many Australians will be infected by Delta. This depends on a combination of the quality of the response and luck. And it I unlikely that this will be the end of the story. COVID could be our reality for years.
To minimise the health an economic cost, it would be prudent to sharpen the effort, have and apply a national plan, ensure a quicker rollout of vaccinations, close the leaks in the quarantine system, and just as importantly, build community confidence through participation.
Resources must be invested in the establishment of special purpose medical facilities, taking better care of front line health workers, and providing adequate income support for those not able to work.
The whole country working harmoniously and taking the same approach, would be a far more effective response. There has been too much bickering across borders and to many uncoordinated responses.
A major step forward would be to involve local communities in caring for themselves. Volunteers could help encourage others to do the right thing, monitor and provide help for those in need. There has already been some of this. Making this an important plank of a national response would expand this involvement by a long way. The target should be to pull down infections to zero.
There is no doubt that continuing waves of infection are the reality. This means ongoing damage to the economy, om top of the problems that already exist. Add a genuine national economic recovery plan with its own clear targets. These are, to protect people first, generate real recovery, and spread the gains fairly.