Thu. May 26th, 2022

Just a month ago, around the same time as he dumped social restrictions and advocated for personal responsibility in dealing with COVID, NSW’s ever new Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet gave a speech arguing for the need to think about the experiences of the pandemic. had taught us about our system of government.

What he specifically had in mind was the nature of the union.

“The pandemic may not be over yet,” he said.

“But now is the time to start thinking about the experience COVID has taught us about our federal system of government – and how we can respond.”

It was a really interesting speech, and vaguely refreshing to hear someone sound as if they were actually thinking of things in the midst of the chaos of pandemic management.

Of course, some of it looks a bit… sick now, given how the actions of Perrott’s government seemed to accelerate the spread of the already contagious Omicron variant.

He said the federation had allowed states to tailor their responses and for everyone to learn from each other. But the pandemic had also identified weaknesses in the system, he said.

Particularly in the health care system, these weaknesses are “all well-known: lack of clarity about who is responsible for what; money transfer, guilt shift, and sometimes hyper-parochialism.”

“When it comes to COVID, no reaction has been perfect. No reaction could be. But we can learn from our mistakes.”

On Friday, Perrottet was forced to withdraw further from his aggressive easing of restrictions – what we might call “all (no) song and dance” restrictions – as he also announced the suspension of non-urgent elective surgery until February, Amid forecasts, people with COVID could take up to 6,000 beds in state hospitals by the end of the month.

It has been a costly mistake. And hardly the only one made by a political leader in Australia.

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Singing and dancing should be banned in hospitality, entertainment and large recreational places

‘No guidebook for COVID’

The confusing and frustrating thing is how, especially at the federal level, there seems to be so little to learn from mistakes in this pandemic.

The Prime Minister was asked on Thursday whether the speed and spread of Omicron had caused the government to go back and reconsider all the scenarios that might arise in the future and what preparedness they might require, so we would be in a better position to respond . faster to what the next variant might throw at us.

Scott Morrison’s response was that that was what health teams and the national cabinet do every day.

“The proof of that is in what are quite world-leading results,” he said. “I mean, you want to judge a process, judge it by its results, and its results are one of the lowest death rates, one of the strongest economies, and one of the highest vaccination rates.”

Yes, a journalist followed up, it has also seen a nationwide shortage of fast antigen testing supplies.

“And if we had the modeling and the Ministry of Health to do its job and prepare for the worst-case scenarios, then why were we not ready?” she asked.

The Prime Minister’s response was that everyone globally was in the same boat, there were plenty of armchair critics, and that he would not accept the proposal that the health authorities had not done their job.

“There’s no guidebook for COVID. We all know that. And so what I think is important is that the country is just focusing on the task ahead. Keep looking through that windshield. It’s there, I’m looking. We’re looking forward to it. “

So the Prime Minister says he is not looking back (and maybe, as a result, not learning anything). But if he looks ahead through the windshield, it is not clear that he is looking through it in any great anticipation of possible dangers ahead, or that he has received driving tips on his recent visit to Bathurst and is driving accordingly. (Since unbearably drawn out metaphors seem to be the order of the day these days).

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Scott Morrison announces that PCR testing is no longer required for those with a positive RAT.

Signs of a system in crisis

And it’s really a gloomy sight out of the windshield right now.

Just two weeks ago, the Prime Minister said Doherty Institute modeling shows that Australia could reach 200,000 cases a day in late January or early February as “a very unlikely, extreme case that assumes that no one does anything; no one gets boosters, no changes take place, no one exercises common sense “.

“That chief physician and I just want to reassure people that that kind of number is not what we expect,” he told breakfast television.

Daily cases already moved 80,000 on Friday, and political leaders around the country began taking drastic steps to keep the systems working.

These measures came on top of the debacle, which has seen the PCR-based testing regime overwhelmed, and authorities raced to try to ease the pressure by increasing the use of rapid antigen testing (despite not having enough to go around), and that systems for recording the results of such tests are only now being developed.

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Parents who are worried that school will return as child vaccination is due to begin

A steady increase in stories of people not being able to make time for their children to be vaccinated, and of GPs receiving emails from the Ministry of Health saying expected deliveries of vaccine supplies were delayed other signs of a system in crisis.

The Prime Minister spoke this week about easing the pressure on hospitals by getting people who are ill to contact their GPs – even though GPs say they do not have the resources to deal with the increase in demand for treatment and for booster rollout.

Proactive leadership?

Most predictions still seem to point to this increase peaking sometime later this month or in February. But the harassment along the way includes the fact that even according to the official plan, 5 to 11-year-olds will only have received one dose of vaccine before school starts, and they will seek the second dose, just as the increase in people will be eligible for booster hits as well.

Overwhelmed hospital systems, a primary health system that can not cope, the return of many restrictions, people who stay at home and do not spend money in the economy, millions of people become ill and / or frustrated about access to vaccines for themselves or their children: it is hardly a good backdrop for an election campaign. So we can at least be spared that misery until closer to May.

Despite all that the pandemic has thrown at us, our political leaders still seem to be unable to anticipate, to become proactive, even consider taking out a bit of insurance.

Instead, whether it’s politics or rhetoric, it seems that the whole thing is still driven by waiting to find out what the mob thinks – about everything from an anti-vaxxer tennis star to an opposition that saw seemed to be reluctant to go hard this week on the issue of access to free fast antigen tests until the issue had developed well and truly in the media so that they would not be attacked for appearing extravagant.

Is it just that several generations of politicians who have been trained to be driven by opinion polls have lost the art of detaching themselves from the security of the mob opinion and… actually leading? With all the risk it entails?

This pandemic shows that such an approach is not just discouraging. It can actually be fatal.

Laura Tingle is 7.30’s political chief correspondent.

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What to do if you are sick and suspect you have COVID but cannot get a test.

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