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

Ian Bushnell 20 April 2020 139

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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139 Responses to Stay the course Australia, till we’re in the clear
fbook fbook 6:30 pm 23 Apr 20

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.

Teresa Baxter Teresa Baxter 1:50 am 21 Apr 20

Australia needs to review mask advice. We are not wearing masks based on WHO advise. This advice is based on supply, not protection. Most countries around the world have their citizens required to wear cloth masks or face coverings when out in public. Singapore and HK had very different outcomes due to mask wearing. Singapore changed its advice. This is a politician from Singapore explaining the changes.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 8:12 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.

Aldith Graves Aldith Graves 8:11 pm 20 Apr 20

Good one. Tells it like it is

Christopher Cuba Rabanal Christopher Cuba Rabanal 7:31 pm 20 Apr 20

But there’s a lot who aren’t listening

Linda Shannon Linda Shannon 7:23 pm 20 Apr 20

And those in childcare centres where the young children, toddlers and babies can’t be kept apart or from staff members??

Lucy Baker Lucy Baker 6:33 pm 20 Apr 20

“…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.

Kirsty Buckley Kirsty Buckley 6:24 pm 20 Apr 20

Do we want this here? A cluster of now 93 cases from a secondary school. It spread to the adjoining primary school and other students who travel together on school buses. Do we want this?

Wita Puspita Wita Puspita 1:53 pm 20 Apr 20

People should let family decides what is best for their family and people around them. This article is so annoying

    Melissa Flis Melissa Flis 1:56 pm 20 Apr 20

    People have proven they can't do that. What's best for the whole community needs to come first.

    Wita Puspita Wita Puspita 1:57 pm 20 Apr 20

    Melissa Flis some people can. When and if we decide to send ours back to school, we will take precautionary measures to keep ourselves at home and not spread the virus further.

    Melissa Flis Melissa Flis 1:59 pm 20 Apr 20

    Wita Doodlesdo "Some" isn't enough. There is no vaccine for this. Social distancing is still the best option. Anything else is playing games with people's lives.

    Wita Puspita Wita Puspita 2:00 pm 20 Apr 20

    Ok whatever 🙄

    Sonia Bowditch Sonia Bowditch 2:09 pm 20 Apr 20

    Melissa Flis actually, 'some' is enough. You think the aim is for no one to catch the virus? From the start, the plan was to flatten curve to avoid hospital overload, not to ensure no one at all contracts the virus. The strict social distancing you're wedded to is untenable for the length of time required for the virus to die out.

    Melissa Flis Melissa Flis 2:12 pm 20 Apr 20

    Sonia Bowditch As I said above, the litmus test will be the results from the Easter weekend as to whether people really are practicing social distancing properly. That should show between April 27 and May 5. Then they may be able to make a more informed judgement. I haven't wedded anyone to anything - I don't enjoy this either - I work from a home office and will also be homeschooling two kids, 9 and 12 from next week. I also have an auto-immune disease that puts me at higher risk if people aren't doing the right thing. I think, at least waiting to see the outcome of the Easter period is a sensible thing to do.

    Sonia Bowditch Sonia Bowditch 3:27 pm 20 Apr 20

    Melissa Flis agreed (but Ms Berry has stated a preference for online learning to continue all term).

    Melissa Flis Melissa Flis 3:29 pm 20 Apr 20

    Sonia Bowditch I'm aware and it is all of Term 2 as far as have been informed. We're lucky, both schools have been very organised, but still we aren't teachers so of course this is going to be tough.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 5:52 pm 20 Apr 20

    Wita Doodlesdo Anyone who writes that obviously can't pick the right time.

Jesse Peter Jesse Peter 1:36 pm 20 Apr 20

'is somehow kinder to kids'?

'somehow' ? .......... it is 'kinder' to kids. it literally is. it absolutely is. practically 0 kids have died. rates of severe illness are extremely low.

this snide tone and utterly unreal insinuation (is author suggesting that global statistics are wrong and that children aren't being spared ? he doesn't say) immediately makes me question the author's intentions and agenda.

John Moulis John Moulis 1:33 pm 20 Apr 20

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.

    astro2 astro2 7:50 pm 20 Apr 20

    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.

Peter McDonald Peter McDonald 12:25 pm 20 Apr 20

What about somewhere like Alice springs. If they keep up the boarder restrictions they should be safe?

Keran Niquet Keran Niquet 11:31 am 20 Apr 20

And your medical qualifications and experience is better than sound medical advice? Get real Ian!

Samia Goudie Samia Goudie 10:04 am 20 Apr 20

I hope parents keep kids home

    Rebecca Kate Rebecca Kate 10:14 am 20 Apr 20

    Samia Goudie already 1,400 kids have been registered to attend. 🤦‍♀️

    Anna Bruce Anna Bruce 12:41 pm 20 Apr 20

    It's pretty difficult to run a hospital in your living room, Rebecca. Where else would you like your healthcare workers and supermarket operators to have their kids? In the car perhaps?

    Jennifer Lobb Jennifer Lobb 3:12 pm 20 Apr 20

    Rebecca Kate I just hope parents aren’t registering because they want their kids out of the house. It’s surprising how many parents are complaining about their kids behaviour and that they can’t get them to do any work. It honestly makes me laugh 😂

    Samia Goudie Samia Goudie 6:16 pm 20 Apr 20

    I think yes for medical

    Staff that’s a different topic and front line workers agree

    Courtney Schmitzer Courtney Schmitzer 6:42 am 21 Apr 20

    Rebecca Kate you have to remember it’s for essential workers and vulnerable children. 1400 doesn’t sound very high to me considering all the additional staff that grocery stores and pharmacies are employing. You’ll also have the children of all the people who secure the new jobs released yesterday by the ACT government.

Victoria Turner Victoria Turner 10:01 am 20 Apr 20

Some things smart teens 13-18 are saying are

If we can go to school

Why can’t we do these things with people our age

- hang at the skate park

- go to the shops with friends

- have parties

- go to the park

- hang out Friday nights

- go to sporting events and compete

- go and watch an AFL or NRL game

- keep bars open for young people only 18-?

-go to the beach

- attend music festivals ( there are a few for under 18)

- attend concerts

People relax and read this correctly. These choices affect teens, they are smart enough to think for themselves. These legitimate comments are the confusion to the government making announcements that teens should attend school. It doesn’t mean teens agree with announcements about returning physically to school. Debating government announcements with teens.

    Samia Goudie Samia Goudie 10:05 am 20 Apr 20

    No that’s naive ? You g people get sick and they give it to others - your thinking is flawed

    Melissa Flis Melissa Flis 10:05 am 20 Apr 20

    Victoria Turner They aren't going to school in the ACT for Term 2 unless there is no choice ie have an essential worker as a parent. Even then it's hubs, not their school. A large proportion of these arguments from "smart" people blatantly ignore the asymptomatic issue of this illness. Until we get wider testing and/or a vaccine, social distancing is still the best option.

    Victoria Turner Victoria Turner 10:08 am 20 Apr 20

    Relax ladies- these are conversations teens have when the GOVERNMENT says they should go to school-

    Liz Hampton Liz Hampton 10:11 am 20 Apr 20

    Victoria Turner there’s a lot of young people still living with their parents. Fine if they’re independent

    Heidi Kark Heidi Kark 12:42 pm 20 Apr 20

    I think what Victoria Turner is saying, is that even teens are questioning how ‘safe’ it is for them to return to school. Even they can see the flawed logic of banning social events but allowing large groups to ‘socialise’ within a school environment.

    Julia Spackburn Julia Spackburn 2:17 pm 20 Apr 20

    Victoria Turner great points your teens are raising.

    Jackie Fuller Jackie Fuller 6:35 pm 20 Apr 20

    Samia Goudie no scomos thinking is flawed....our kids are smart!!.

    Peter Hatfield Peter Hatfield 8:30 pm 20 Apr 20

    Victoria Turner Surely any parent should be able to explain why by now and most teenagers are well capable of finding out why.

    Dean Davidson Dean Davidson 7:55 pm 22 Apr 20

    I think smart teens would have no problem understanding the correlation between mixing with other people and spreading covid 19. I think the medical people are just asking us to suck it up and do the best for all of society until there there is some answer to this virus. Schooling is important and children are resilient to this virus.

chewy14 chewy14 9:57 am 20 Apr 20

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.

rsm1105 rsm1105 9:52 am 20 Apr 20

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.

rsm1105 rsm1105 9:47 am 20 Apr 20

“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.

Hoppingmad Hoppingmad 9:45 am 20 Apr 20

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.

Phil Hopkins Phil Hopkins 9:35 am 20 Apr 20

Will ScoMo"s kids be going back to school too?

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