20 April 2020

Stay the course Australia, till we're in the clear

| Ian Bushnell
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Winter is coming, and letting up now could be deadly. Photo: Canberra Health Services.

Forget the fact that we can’t drive too far at these days, but Australians seem to be like the kids in the back crying ”are we there yet?”

The nation’s COVID-19 containment measures appear to be working and we are the envy of countries where the death toll is and continues to be appalling.

It’s working so well that commentators, mostly of the economic kind advocating a cruel calculus in which some lives are more valuable than others, are suggesting it’s time to ease off and get the nation back to work, because the cure is worse than the disease.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is talking about exit strategies at the same time as he announces another month of lockdown, and going solo in urging teachers and students to return to their classrooms, because coronavirus is somehow kinder to kids, just when it looked like he’d got this leadership thing.

And you can feel it in the air, that sense of relief and permission the mix of messages is giving us to relax and prepare for life to return to normal.

You walk down the path and groups are gathering and holding their ground as you pass around them. Soon the cafés will be serving more than takeaways.

Those who have lost their jobs are understandably thinking it won’t be long now and they can return to where they left off.

NSW, which was so firm about remote learning that the ACT felt compelled to say it was in lockstep, is now rolling back and talking about schools reopening three weeks into term two. Did Gladys, who all year has stood firm against her federal Liberal colleagues and the Prime Minister, finally succumb to the pressure?

Even Yvette Berry, hardly the most nuanced of politicians, found herself talking about seeing how things go and re-assessing the situation.

But it seems the digitally savvy ACT will stick to a term of remote teaching at least. It won’t be perfect but it will provide valuable experience and data, as well as keeping teachers and students safe.

It is incomprehensible to think that amid all the social distancing measures, we could somehow allow hundreds of children and their teachers to gather together five days a week on the one site and not expect something to go wrong as they go home on public transport to their families.

Certainty and consistency is what we need, not chopping and changing.

They all provide the caveats about reopening the economy – the Singapore sling, where there has been a surge in cases after initial success – the risks of starting of the whole wicked process again, and this time not being able to nip it in the bud so easily, and the fact that if that was the case our sacrifices would have been for nought.

But still the asides continue. Maybe they think they’re offering hope, but really all they do is undermine the whole strategy.

We all want this done and dusted. The economic consequences are immense but we need to listen to the scientific and medical experts who have got us into this potentially winning position, not gun slingers for a certain national newspaper.

We are barely a month into the lockdown and we need to stay the course until the science tells us otherwise, even when, like in the ACT, the number of new cases dries up.

We do not need departures from the central message, such as the Prime Minister doing his own thing despite setting up a National Cabinet to provide unity and focus to what has been needed to be done.

We do not need carrots thrown to the mob, preparing the ground for rolling back the restrictions.

And remember, there are still thousands of Australians still returning to this country from around the world. Winter is coming, and we should still expect the worst and hope for the best.

It is now a slow, frustrating burn, but ease up too soon and we could get well and truly scorched.

The kids in the back need to be given some straight talking and told to pipe down for a while.

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It’s the environment many teachers have dreamed of, full salary, no kids in the classroom – so, don’t expect them to give it away until 2021. Why is it different to a cashier at Woolworths or any retail store? Canberra is not representative of the rest of Australia, easy jobs to work from home. Many outside Canberra rely on having the kids in school to go to work.

HiddenDragon8:12 pm 20 Apr 20

It would be really lovely if everyone in Australia could work at home (or pretend to) and enjoy the living standards of middle Canberra – and do that for as long as it takes to find a vaccine and/or treatments for the virus, or come up with some other (relatively) safe way out of the current situation.

Sadly, the world doesn’t work like that (universal basic income fantasies aside) and governments are faced with particularly difficult choices because there are very big health and economic issues to consider – it’s not one or the other. So far, they seem to be doing a decent job of it – allowing for the fact that a lot of this is necessarily about making it up as they go along – and whatever they do will obviously involve risks and compromises.

Most Australians seem to understand that, even if they’re understandably not thrilled about it.

“…commentators, mostly of the economic kind advocating a cruel calculus in which some lives are more valuable than others…” yes I heard Gigi Foster on The Economists too! Chilling.

So we have to live like hermits in isolation until science comes up with a vaccine. There is no vaccine for AIDS/HIV. If we had gone into lockdown in 1980 – 40 years ago – when AIDS came to Australia we would still be in lockdown.

We can’t live like this forever. I’m sick of police arresting people for no reason. I’m sick of queues at Centrelink. I’m sick of not being able to go on holiday. I’m sick of empty shelves at supermarkets. I’m sick of having special occasions cancelled. I’m sick of not being able to dine in a restaurant. I’m sick of not being able to go to the gym. And I’m sick of this country now resembling Hiroshima after the atomic bomb.

Sooner or later we have to yell “enough” and start living again. And if governments won’t let us do that we will have to take matters into our own hands and do it ourselves.

Awww diddums..i wanna go out to play Waaa… Let’s listen to the grown-ups who understand the potential of this virus. You may be sick of being cooped up and not allowed out to play but at least you’re not sick with coronavirus and desperately struggling to breathe. And by the way, this has nothing to do with HIV-AIDs which is a blood-borne disease. Coronavirus is a frighteningly contagious disease with very unpredictable results. You may think you are not at risk…but you may not found until you get it…so let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

What the author clearly doesn’t understand is that most actual experts have said that full elimination of the virus in our country is extremely unlikely.

So it isn’t a case of waiting something out, it’s unlikely that it will possible. We need to learn how to live with outbreaks of this virus and how we can clamp down hard on an outbreak when one occurs.

So the governments are looking at how they can stagger the relaxation of restrictions whilst ramping up control measures, testing and medical capabilities.

The other clear point to make is that this virus is not the only bad thing that can happen to someone. What do you think the overall effects on health and mortality will be from a lengthy lockdown?

How many people will die from the effects of increased poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence. Etc. Etc.

Painting this issue as a one dimensional good vs bad decision is naiive at best and extremely dangerous at worst.

One of the main disease vectors identified in NYC is its mass transit system I.e. subway.

Why have we not shut down the light rail? Civic is basically empty.

So basically people are doing the shutdown for us.

“we need to stay the course until the science tells us otherwise”

Does this mean maintain the current state of lock down until anti-viral treatment and/or a vaccine is able to be developed (which is not guaranteed).

What is the metric for “in the clear”?

Platitudes don’t address realities.

I guess we will be consulting the unions on climate science too.

Workers at Bunnings and those serving your takeaway coffee to hundreds all day everyday are at
More risk than with the same group of kids 5 days a week. Teachers, schools and other parents are in the best position to educate everyone.

Should at least consider a few days a week rotation, with teachers not congregating in staff rooms and kids not having assemblies etc in confined spaces.

I’m 100% happy for my child to go back on all the information I have and I have read both sides.

Timmy Holness7:45 am 20 Apr 20

Great article and couldn’t agree more. As a teacher I don’t have a say so that appeal by our PM really set up a mixed message to the public. Noticed a lot more people around over weekend and a different vibe around so a little worried about that.

On the first day of school next week there will be no COVID-19 cases in the ACT and all of southern NSW. Random testing will have been going for 3 weeks with no cases found. Almost all health authorities say school are not risks including Australia’s chief medical officer. The risk is so small… but it is certain that if we stay locked down the domestic violence increase that the hospital is seeing will continue with kids unable to get a reprieve at school, most teachers in NSW are saying they have not been able to catch up with at least one of their students online as the parents in educational disadvantaged homes don’t care enough to engage, preschool and kindy are so important but are done through play based learning which you can’t do online… There is a 100% chance kids in disadvantaged and dangerous homes will be massively damaged. Are we really ready to throw these disadvantaged students under the bus due to our irrational fears?

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