17 September 2021

Barr had little choice but to extend lockdown

| Ian Bushnell
Join the conversation
Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr at a COVID-19 briefing this week. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Did anybody seriously believe that the ACT lockdown would not be extended this week, with cases oscillating between the mid-teens and 20s, cases lighting up in the regions around Canberra and Sydney still reporting more than a thousand cases a day and people dying every day?

Yes, we are all disappointed. Yes, we would all love to have some semblance of normality restored.

And yes, there are businesses facing a desperate struggle to stay afloat.

The mental health and economic impacts would have played on the minds of the Chief Minister and the Chief Health Officer as they mulled the data, but the numbers – both the vaccination rates and the case numbers – meant they had little choice.

READ ALSO Liberals, business call for roadmap clarity and business recovery taskforce

They are in no doubt what would happen if the government let the pressure off – an explosion in cases, more in hospital and health services facing overwhelm.

Maybe not, but is that a risk you would want your leaders to take?

It’s a case of all care and no responsibility from some of those who have been calling for an end to lockdown and speeding up a full reopening along the lines of NSW, although the rhetoric there does not seem to match what may actually happen.

This kind of debate has been going on since the start of the pandemic and has been characterised by a lot of loose talk, Trumpian distortions and misrepresentations.

Fortunately, our health has not been in the hands of commentators, showboating journalists and Social Darwinist economists.

The row over vaccination rates and the National Plan boils down to a matter of weeks. Why risk a surge in cases and possible deaths for such a short space of time?

READ ALSO It’s all COVID but where is the rest of government?

The ACT also has to take into account that its hospitals service the region around it. About one in four patients come from across the border. During any escalation in COVID cases, that would place enormous pressure on the ACT health system.

Perhaps then the sceptics who called the Garran Surge Centre a waste of money would feel better about it.

Managing and balancing risk is what governments have had to do since the start of the pandemic, and some have made mistakes.

It must be remembered – and memory seems to be a diminishing commodity – that the ACT’s situation is not of its own making.

After buying time last year, the nation is where it is because the Morrison Government, which stands commended for its initial response, failed to spread its risk when it came to vaccine supply and effective quarantine facilities.

This is not even a judgment made in hindsight because plenty of experts warned the government last year about these two issues.

The limitations placed on the AstraZeneca vaccine due to rare blood clotting concerns may have been unfortunate, but with new vaccines, there are always risks.

Australia should have been fully vaccinated before the Sydney outbreak, not squabbling now about when it is safe enough to open up.

When the Delta COVID cases emerged in Sydney, that state, caught up in its own ructions about how hard to clamp down, hestitated, and its half-hearted response let the virus out into the regions, the ACT, and Melbourne.

The other disappointing element of the Sydney response has been the divisive way it has managed it – the pitting of Local Government Areas against each other, the poor treatment of the south and west, compared to the affluent east and north, and the rough deal for the regions.

The idea of privileges for the vaccinated also sets people apart from each other when many may not have even had the opportunity to be vaccinated.

Mr Barr, maligned by some for curtailing our freedoms, is clear that this discriminatory policy is not something the ACT will pursue and is concerned about the long-term human rights implications of such approaches.

It also reeks of an ‘I’m all right, Jack’ attitude that is a long way from ‘we’re all in this together’.

READ ALSO National institution unearths rare recording of Led Zeppelin interview

This week, there has also been much talk about Mr Barr’s clash with certain journalists who came down from the Hill to bless us with their presence to take him on about the lockdown decision and hog the microphone.

Mr Barr deserved to be asked the tough questions but belligerence and shouting at the podium is no substitute for a query grounded in fact.

The Chief Minister has fronted these press conferences for five weeks, has patiently answered many repeat questions and explained the detail of policy, including that contentious National Plan and the intricacies of vaccination rate thresholds.

He wasn’t about to let a few grandstanders, whose interest in the fortunes of the ACT is fleeting at best, have it all their own way.

In any case, Mr Barr and Dr Coleman are not making decisions for journalists, individual businesses, upset families or people whose travel plans are on hold.

They have to consider the safety of the entire ACT population and be accountable for their actions.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
CaptainSpiff3:26 pm 18 Sep 21

Barr is obsessed with case counts, and has basically painted himself into a corner. He can’t relax any restrictions now, because any increase in case counts will be seen as a failure.

Focusing on case counts is the single biggest mistake leaders have made in this pandemic. The public health metric that really matters is hospitalization. If ongoing public health measures and restrictions were based on hospitalization, the public would be much more supportive.

People die everyday

The quicker that people suffer real hardship and see themselves or family members suffer serious mental health issues due to lockdown the better as it will turn public opinion against this curse on humanity.

The same could be said for COVID itself. The sooner some see that it is real and the effect that it has then maybe public opinion may take things much more seriously.

That said what is needed is balance between the risk of Covid and the threat and risk from other things such as economic loss, metal health etc. sadly I don’t think anyone has a rule book as to when one becomes more important than the other.

Get your vaccine ASAP, enjoy your 2 hours exercise a day, stay away from the moronic conspiracy theorists online (some of whom have graced this thread!) and stay tuned for a gradual easing of restrictions.

If you look at the data you would be not taking the experimental gene therapy. The conspiring occurred last decade, now they are implementing their agenda.

Thank you for clarifying that Oscar Mike – I will follow your instructions.

I will go and look at ‘the data’ and learn about the conspiring that ‘they’ did last decade and then understand. Without any reason for doubt, I am sure I will see that ‘they’ are now implementing ‘their’ agenda.

Off to google now to search ‘data’. If thats not specific enough, I will try ‘their 2010s conspiracy and 2020s implementation’ – surely that’ll do it!

paulmuster – That’s a statement I would expect from someone working in the Chief Minister’s office

“”Gwynne Nicholas”. Your “”NSW will go from a few thousand cases a day to tens of thousands per day.””. Am unsure where you got those figures from.
In Great Britain , 2 days ago, they reported 30k cases for the day, with a seven day average of 31k. Disturbing figures , but from a population of 67 million.

”This week, there has also been much talk about Mr Barr’s clash with certain journalists who came down from the Hill to bless us with their presence to take him on about the lockdown decision and hog the microphone.”
Could this be a sort of sniffy response to journo’s who came down from the hill ? and possibly upset the local camaraderie somewhat.

Yes, it seemed like those horrible journalists from “the hill” actually asked some necessary and difficult questions to hold the CM to account.

Apparently this is unfair to the local Dorothy Dixer brigade whose questions are about as hard hitting as a wet lettuce leaf.

I was cheering when the journos from on the hill arrived. Finally someone asked the difficult questions that Canberra people deserve to have asked and answered! The first three weeks of questions appeared to all be dorothy dixers. Frankly I was really disappointed in our local journos. There are big repercussions from this Lockdown and Barr cannot hide from it.

The ACT should allow children to go back to school based on ACT Vaccination thresholds and not wait for National Vaccination thresholds as well as have a clear detailed plan for doing so before the start of Term 4.

Why exactly are children in the ACT waiting for the vaccination rate of adults in the three most lagging states (Western Australia, South Australia and QLD) to meet a criteria when ACT children have
o a higher vaccination rate in their own state,
o a rate which will be met weeks earlier than national levels, and
o a border to protect them from people travelling from these states?

Here is a petition link asking for an ACT vaccination rate threshold not national and a plan before school starts. Petition link – https://chng.it/s2vmhNvQry

Of course he had a choice. Saying he had little choice is just a cop out. Despite still high case numbers, Europe is moving out of lockdowns and mask wearing and accepting that there is no hiding from a virus, you just have to live with it and get on with life. The media should be asking why Barr is issuing these arrogant nanny-state edicts despite the harm it is causing to kids, businesses and the whole community. Power corrupts. No doubt there are certain people enjoying lockdown and have a selfish vested interest in its continuance, people like tenured public servants and privileged academics who prefer working from home without supervision, pathology companies making huge profits from testing, the medical industry and the panpanic media, which never lets a good crisis go to waste without habitually catastrophising.

The problem is not the extension, but the extension with a lack of justification and reasoning backed with supporting evidence and a lack of contingency planning. This then leads to lack of transparency.

I think the journalist has not quite understood the point people are making, which is why it needs to be noted that this article is an individual opinion piece, as is my comment.

Exactly this.

The lockdown has been relatively reasonable considering the position we were in.

The lack of detail and justification for its continuation or any semblance of a reasonable pathway forwards is the main issue.

*Authorised by I Bushnell, ALP Canberra.

Honestly, how much more softball journalism can be given to this Government. It’s as balanced as Andrew Barr’s approach to risk.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.