Barr had little choice but to extend lockdown

Ian Bushnell 17 September 2021 77
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.

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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?

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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’.

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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.

What's Your Opinion?

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77 Responses to Barr had little choice but to extend lockdown
CaptainSpiff CaptainSpiff 3:26 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.

Oscar Mike Oscar Mike 12:02 pm 18 Sep 21

People die everyday

Jonny Ivan Jonny Ivan 3:53 am 18 Sep 21

write this year off

Corey Karl Corey Karl 8:13 pm 17 Sep 21

I didn’t seriously believe it wouldn’t be extended two weeks ago

mitch82 mitch82 7:46 pm 17 Sep 21

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.

    JC JC 10:54 am 18 Sep 21

    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.

Feli Cia Feli Cia 6:56 pm 17 Sep 21

Of course not. Still too much community transmission for a start. Getting groceries is like playing hot potato or Russian roulette with Covid.

Gem Gemm Gem Gemm 5:44 pm 17 Sep 21

Well said, imo a fair statement summary. Exactly.

paulmuster paulmuster 2:29 pm 17 Sep 21

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.

    Oscar Mike Oscar Mike 3:23 pm 17 Sep 21

    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.

    paulmuster paulmuster 9:00 pm 17 Sep 21

    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!

    Futureproof Futureproof 10:38 am 18 Sep 21

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

MERC600 MERC600 1:33 pm 17 Sep 21

“”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.

MERC600 MERC600 1:15 pm 17 Sep 21

”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.

    chewy14 chewy14 2:19 pm 17 Sep 21

    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.

Teddy Nicholas Teddy Nicholas 12:56 pm 17 Sep 21

Finally Barr has admitted what will happen when Sydney opens - NSW will go from a few thousand cases a day to tens of thousands per day. Canberra will go up to thousands per day and the hospitals will be over run.

His words not mine

when I blogged this would happen weeks ago I was called a moron etc

Who are the fools now?

BigDave BigDave 12:19 pm 17 Sep 21

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.

Feedback Feedback 11:47 am 17 Sep 21

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 –

Simon Trommestad Simon Trommestad 11:31 am 17 Sep 21

From the article:

'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'

Meanwhile, vaccine manufacturers have indemnity against damages re: those who take the vaccine. THAT'S 'no need to care, no responsibility' on rushed vaccines. What are the long term effects of these vaccines plus booster shots? Nothing but a shoulder shrug or group-think yelling accusations of 'Conspiracy theorist!' in response to the most basic of questioning about vaccine safety.

We need to get back to living and stop being afraid of germs. Covid-19 deaths stats are padded with elderly deaths from palliative care facilities (who died with Covid but from chronic health conditions including cancer).

Let's just go back to normal life and stop being ridiculous. Reject fear. Reject 'new normal'. Reject propaganda.

    Martin Budden Martin Budden 1:17 pm 17 Sep 21

    Simon Trommestad actually, that's a fair criticism of me, I deserve it.

    BUT I'm so so so fed up with people thinking they know better than the experts. People like you. You don't know better than the experts. Just stop.

    Heidi Kark Heidi Kark 1:19 pm 17 Sep 21

    Simon Trommestad Isn’t it true that if a cancer patient were to die in a car accident, their death would be attributed to the accident?

    I don’t understand why some expect differently when it comes to deaths from covid. Yes, many of the cases have comorbidities, but if they die from complications associated with covid, their death should be reported as such.

    Simon Trommestad Simon Trommestad 1:27 pm 17 Sep 21

    Martin Budden, do you consider the Australian Bureau of Statistics to be staffed by experts in their field?

    '72.7% of people who died from COVID-19 had pre-existing chronic conditions certified on the death certificate.'

    Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 8:20 pm 17 Sep 21

    Simon Trommestad I reject deaths- very very sad to lose a 39 year old friend from Covid.

    Callum Bowen Callum Bowen 12:04 am 18 Sep 21

    Completely agree with Simon.

    For years now we’ve turned a blind eye to thousands of annual flu deaths (and who knows from how many other causes) for the sake of the economy.

    It’s time we realised that human lives are worth more than shareholder profits.

    Covid has just been the stark reminder of this.

    Heidi Kark Heidi Kark 6:29 am 18 Sep 21

    Simon Trommestad I believe your example to be logically consistent with what I’ve said above- In that the death would still be attributed to the cancer, as the person would not otherwise be receiving the chemotherapy that causes the compromised immune system that puts them at risk of minor infection.

    Simon Trommestad Simon Trommestad 11:19 am 18 Sep 21

    Heidi Kark, if the minor infection was Covid-19, the death would be counted as Covid-19. That is what is happening at the moment.

    Simon Trommestad Simon Trommestad 11:24 am 18 Sep 21

    Callum Bowen, it is time that people embrace the truth that people die. That is completely normal. People die, but prior to that people LIVE. Measures in place at the moment are preventing people living their lives how they want to. If we start wrapping everyone up in cotton wool and demanding they stay home or get jabbed or do this… go there but not here… it’s manipulation and it takes all the joy out of life. It also weakens immune systems and due to people who believe propaganda versus people who pick it apart, it creates enemies of friends and family.

    Callum Bowen Callum Bowen 11:44 am 18 Sep 21

    That’s actually a really good point. People do die all the time and there’s nothing worse than pesky safety requirements keeping me from enjoying my life and living it the way I want to.

    I never realised before that waiting at a crosswalk when I’m late to catch up with friends is just preventing me from living my life how I want, and let’s face it the pedestrian placing a social onus on me not to run them over is just manipulating the joy out of my life.

    Why should other people expect strangers to accept a whole bunch of limitations on a daily basis just because it’s “good for society”.

    If they didn’t want to be run over they shouldn’t be walking right?

    I mean it would really suck for me to be late right? That would be an extremely joyless evening for me.

    Simon Trommestad Simon Trommestad 2:10 pm 18 Sep 21

    Marc Edwards, you can believe that. They could just as easily be killed by a staf or other bacterial infection. They could be killed by influenza.

Topher Garlik Topher Garlik 11:14 am 17 Sep 21

If China were the first to introduce lock downs how come the rest of the world got covid virus ?

    Martin Budden Martin Budden 11:49 am 17 Sep 21

    Topher Garlik it had already spread outside China before they locked down.

Jeannou Zoides Jeannou Zoides 11:06 am 17 Sep 21

We are paying the price for the inept LNP Berejiklian Government 😡

Guy Hosking Guy Hosking 10:17 am 17 Sep 21

The author believes that Australia should have been fully vaccinated before the Sydney outbreak. Interesting because no country was fully vaccinated before June.

The argument that signing contracts early would have resulted in supply of vaccines early does not stack up. NZ and Japan signed early and they are not doing much better in the vaccine race than Australia. In fact, NZ is losing by a significant margin.

    Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 12:03 pm 17 Sep 21

    Guy Hosking I have some sympathy for the argument that the government was prioritising domestic production capacity over overseas supplies.

    What I resent is that the early messaging was “it’s not a race” but now, not being vaccinated seems to be the populace’s fault.

    Guy Hosking Guy Hosking 12:07 pm 17 Sep 21

    Gabriel Spacca If it is a race then NZ is losing.

    Even now it is debatable whether Australia has a moral entitlement to vaccines ahead of third world countries with high death rates.

    Aldith Graves Aldith Graves 7:32 pm 17 Sep 21

    Guy Hosking Scott Morrison - it isn't a race

Acton Acton 10:11 am 17 Sep 21

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.

Gary Keogh Gary Keogh 9:35 am 17 Sep 21

I think Barr's been doing a pretty good job, all things considered. It's better than the NSW approach of opening up at 70% with the caveat that you must be fully vaccinated.

In saying that, the ACT is very different to other states. There's not much vaccine hesitancy here so there's little need for vaccine mandates.

    Shehzad Sarwar Hossain Shehzad Sarwar Hossain 9:51 am 17 Sep 21

    Gary Keogh there’s very little vaccine hesitancy in NSW also going by the numbers. They’ve already hit 81% first dose, faster than us, and they’re a population of 6 million, not 430k.

    Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 11:58 am 17 Sep 21

    Shehzad Sarwar Hossain Having extra doses meant for other states hasn’t hurt. Several deaths each day also tends to focus one’s attention.

    Shehzad Sarwar Hossain Shehzad Sarwar Hossain 12:56 pm 17 Sep 21

    True but what do you do at times of war? You redirect and best optimise resources where the battlefronts are, in this case Sydney where they are truly waging a war against Covid and suffering massive casualties too.

Kerry Jackson Kerry Jackson 9:19 am 17 Sep 21

Agree and so glad to see the point about giving privileges to the fully vaccinated ( I am) when there has not been equity of access and the opportunities for all to do so at the same time.

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