20 October 2022

'Fortress Australia' approach to COVID went too far

| Ross Solly
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Row of AFP officers and traffic

Checkpoint at the border – another sign the COVID response went too far? Photo: Michelle Kroll.

In late 2020, with my father dying from cancer and with only weeks to live, I tried to get back to Australia to see him and my distressed mother one last time.

I’d returned earlier in the year and had spent two weeks locked in a hotel room, hoping my Dad would still be with us when I got out. Fortunately, he was, and I was able to spend some cherished moments with him.

Later in the year, the option to return had been closed down.

I was one of the thousands of Australians who missed important family moments because of Australia’s fortress COVID approach.

A new report this week – Fault Lines: an independent review into Australia’s response to COVID-19 – has confirmed what many who found themselves on the wrong side of Australia’s stringent COVID restriction laws already knew – the rules went too far and probably caused more harm and distress to the people they were designed to protect.

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The review was funded by the Paul Ramsay Foundation, John and Miriam Wylie Foundation and the Minderoo Foundation, and was headed by respected former public servant Peter Shergold.

It found schools should have remained open and that lockdowns and border closures were avoidable.

Significantly, the report found Australia’s most vulnerable communities received next to no financial support during this time and paid a significant price. Rules were enforced in ways that lacked fairness and compassion.

The report found it was wrong to close entire school systems, especially when it became widely known that schools were not high transmission environments.

“For children and parents (particularly women), we failed to get the balance right between protecting health and imposing long-term costs on education, mental health, the economy and workforce outcomes,” the report said.

Canberra Centre

Canberra Centre during lockdown: the economic costs of COVID are long-lasting. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

More than 200 health experts, public servants, epidemiologists and business and community groups were consulted for the report. It talks of policy failures at all levels of government through quarantine requirements, contact tracing, testing and communications.

I was in the United Kingdom when the COVID panic began to sweep the world. It was one of the first countries the virus took hold and raced through the community. There was a lot of fear.

But to the credit of Boris Johnson and his government, the response was quick, vaccinations were made readily available and the public responded.

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I had two AstraZeneca vaccines within six months. Johnson himself had the same vaccine. Meanwhile, in Australia, people refused to have the same vaccine because they were told they might not be safe.

Their fear was being fed by irresponsible media coverage, which caused a lot of vulnerable people a lot of stress. Several health experts also made unhelpful comments which added to the confusion.

Then the Australian lockdowns arrived and borders were closed. Nearly every day in the international media, there were embarrassing reports of how desperate Australians were not allowed to visit dying relatives and how people were being locked up for breaking quarantine laws or daring to cross closed borders.

And then there was the threat from the Australian Government to jail its own citizens if they dared try and return to Australia from India during the pandemic, surely one of the low watermarks of Australia’s overall COVID response.

Ridiculously, some governments continued to pursue a zero-COVID approach long after it became obvious it could never be achieved.

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Critics of the Shergold response will say it focuses too much on the economic impacts of Australia’s COVID response and ignores all the lives that were saved. But the report echoes what similar reports from other countries have also found – the long-term mental health issues and the damaging disruption to our children’s education are costs we will have to bear for many years to come.

In the early days of COVID, nobody knew what it was, how bad it would get, and how it could be eradicated. Governments and health authorities did their best with the information they had to protect their citizens.

But as this report finds, the balance was not right.

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Personally I don’t think they went overboard. Mid 2020 Australia was probably one of a handful of coutries that you would have wanted to be in.

We were in a far better position than most other countries.

Look at Sydney circa June 2021 with the NSW government doing pretty much nothing about that Covid wave.

Sadly, there will be very few comments here that are critical of the covid response, as Canberra is one of the most ‘vaccinated’ cities in the whole world (despite Canberra having very high rates of covid infections and deaths). Canberrans on the whole, refuse to accept that the government would mistreat them, as sadly most Canberrans work for the government – the very organisation that has mistreated citizens and breached their human rights for the last 2 years.

The government restrictions during Covid went too far. People have a human right to not be coerced or forced into ‘medical treatments’.

Give it another few years and, just like you can’t find a single person who supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, you won’t find a single person who supported lockdowns or mandates. They were obviously wrong from the start and we’ve barely begun to pay the costs from them. Wait until people start realising what lockdowns did to their children. The economic costs we’re experiencing are just the beginning. You can’t spend two generations encouraging everyone to go to just-in-time supply chains and then stop all trade and not expect heavy consequences. That’s obviously a problem that isn’t going to be solved any time soon, and is only going to get much worse. We’re going to see famines unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my lifetime, something even the IMF predicted in June 2021, so it can’t be blamed on Russia or flooding (which will make it worse). The mental, spiritual, and emotional toll based on government pushed fear. (We know the UK and NSW had “nudge” units with the task of whipping up public fear). Australia already has among the highest excess death rate in the world, currently running at nearly 20% above the baseline. All to “protect” against a virus that was in 2020 was obviously eventually going to infect every single human multiple times over, once it joined the stable of viruses we already know as the common cold. A virus that was so unusually age stratified that you really only had something to worry about if you were over 50. Even then, the government couldn’t keep the virus out of hospices or aged care facilities. It didn’t even try. Instead of expending resources in areas where it actually would have helped and saved lives, we threw it away on a scared middle class that was not in extreme danger compared to those who suffered. A government that didn’t even bother to consider the negative consequences of its actions (which I know to be fact from FOIA requests). In the mean time, all the joys of life, like a grandparent seeing their first grandchild, or spending time with people whose company you enjoy, was stolen by a government driven by polling rather than principles. This will be looked back on as the biggest crime of the twenty first century.

One day people will not believe the type of stupid, unnecessary and vindictive restrictions that were created to impose on a docile and compliant population. Like dictating the direction to walk around LBG. Clockwise is Covid-wise. So I souvenired a few of these signs for posterity and my shed:

The government COVID response proved that jackboots were in fashion

HiddenDragon7:16 pm 21 Oct 22

If anything, Australia was too slow to implement effective border restrictions, with the result that the virus got into the country and spread in much larger numbers than might otherwise have been the case.

That then made it much easier for the hysterics, control freaks and political opportunists to implement some of the utterly mad and heartless restrictions which were inflicted on Australians.

Aside from the irreplaceably lost years, ruined lives and livelihoods, another of the toxic legacies of that over-reach is that we are now lurching to the opposite extreme – with the risk that we will be seriously vulnerable if the next mutation of the virus eludes current vaccines.

The panpanic divided Australia. There were politicians, health bureaucrats and petty officials, including police, who overreacted out of fear and ignorance, or perhaps even a form of meglamania, to devise, impose and enforce draconian rules. There was the majority who subserviently followed the rules without a bleat. Or worse still justifying. And there was a minority who protested, at risk of personal vilification, about the totally unnecessary and unreasonable loss of civil liberties and freedoms. Which group were you in?

Your comments don’t acknowledge the role that restrictions and subsequent vaccines made in below g to protect our community.

In the past 12 months, after restrictions started to lift, more than 10,000 Australians have succumbed to Covid.
Imagine the death rate had Governments (State and the Commonwealth) not taken medical advice, but bowed to the demands of personal freedom advocates.

Every life lost to Covid has been someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter. To those who have lost loved ones, I don’t think they would consider your loss of personal liberties, as being very significant.

I was in a third group who approved of sensible restrictions that were reasonably justified and made sense whilst objecting to some of the clear overreach and illogical rules that were put in place in some jurisdictions.

What group were you in?

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